Friday, 16 March 2012 11:52 AM
2011 was a challenging year for small businesses. Though the economic headwinds remain strong, there are signs the outlook is improving. Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) research reveals encouraging resilience among members, showing they are looking for growth opportunities in the coming year. Small businesses will be pleased to see inflation, and the midterm outlook, heading back down to the two per cent target level. That should help margins, and increase consumers’ real income. And stock markets – a leading indicator of future economic prospects – are recovering to levels not seen since 2008.
Key to keeping the UK economy on the right track and nurturing it back to health is tackling the budget deficit. The FSB continues to support your debt reduction plan: any loss in the UK’s international creditability will have a negative impact on all sectors of UK life, and fiscal discipline needs to be maintained.
As you will have heard from many quarters, the trick now is to instil confidence, and put in place the long-term measures to raise the UK’s level of sustainable growth. The FSB believes this should be through selecting priority areas where Government action will have a real impact on small businesses. It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that business does not want a barrage of micro-measures and temporary schemes but rather stability and certainty, with quality schemes designed for the long-term, ideally with cross-party support. To give one example, the German apprenticeship scheme has been changed just once in 50 years – the contrast with the UK could not be sharper.
In this letter the FSB sets out its thoughts for specific measures it would like to see taken forward at the Budget to help small businesses, including tax simplification, access to finance and procurement. Specific mention is also made of the economic situation in Northern Ireland, and the pressing need to address its challenges. However it starts with views on the institutional arrangements, and the way to improve that for the UK’s 4.5 million small businesses...