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FSB Policy Chairman outlines what is needed to keep delivering change

Opinion-May-June-Detail

FSB is better able to deliver real change for members when we all work together. Now is the time to make this happen.

I am honoured to have been elected by FSB members as your new Policy Director. FSB now has reach, power and influence as never before. Decision-makers recognise this, and we are respected across every nation and region of the UK. We are now the UK’s best business lobby.

The coming year brings some real worries for members and the wider small business movement. The introduction of pensions auto-enrolment, the National Living Wage and changes to the taxation of dividends are all challenges, and the cumulative effect will be a concern for the security of your business.

As you may have seen in the media, our ‘Voice of Small Business Index’ shows confidence among small businesses has fallen to its lowest level since the start of 2013. More firms are expecting to downsize, and fewer firms are expecting to create jobs or to grow. This is a wake-up call to policymakers across the UK.

In recent years, we’ve demonstrated how resilient the small business community can be. Our index showed how ambitious members are for their businesses, with many of them wanting to export more and increase employment. We will continue to take their views to Government, and suggest how they can create the right environment for small businesses. 

There are also opportunities we can capitalise on, including devolution. Local decision-makers are best placed to understand their local economies – if small businesses are at the heart of the decision-making process, it can deliver a rebalancing of the economy. 

If we want to address the challenges ahead and capitalise on the opportunities, we need you. Our strength as an organisation is that small business owners are at the heart of everything we do. Our activists, with local decision-makers plugged in locally as well as nationally, give us our strength.

So we must build on those strengths. We need more support for Regions and Branches, so our regional activists and committees can help and influence local representatives. As devolution accelerates, our relationship with local decision-makers becomes even more important.

And we have to make our own structures work. The National Policy Committee needs to step up and involve activists. That is why, at the Regional Policy Conference last year, I held workshops on reforming business rates. Knowing your opinions and knowledge strengthened the proposals. When we all work together, we can achieve a lot.

We are also building up Big Voice, our survey panel, so we have research on the key issues directly from you. This boosts our case with ministers. The more people who sign up, the more we get from the data, and the more we can achieve together.

We need to keep building our ability to achieve change for our members and the small business community. When we all pull together, when we learn from each other, when we all talk with one voice, we can deliver for our members and recruit more small business owners to join us.