It’s hard to avoid hearing about politics at the moment. With a new government in Westminster, new ministers and new policies, it’s a time of change. And as ever, political changes can have an impact – good or bad – on businesses. From Business Rates to Brexit, tax to transport, those in power can have a direct impact on businesses and their owners.
Big corporations are very adept at hiring smartly-dressed, well-connected lobbyists to make their voice heard. But how can small businesses make their voices heard at the highest levels too?
There are 5.6 million small businesses in the UK today. That’s 99 per cent of all businesses. Between them, they account for 60 per cent of private sector employment. They are run by the innovators, strivers and risk-takers who power the country’s economy.
So how can a florist in Flintshire, an electrician in Essex, an accountant in Ayrshire or a café owner in Cumbria influence the UK’s elected leaders?
“The answer, put simply, is strength in numbers,” says Martin McTague, FSB’s Policy and Advocacy Chair. “By coming together and sharing experiences and concerns, small business owners can have a really big voice in the corridors of power.”
FSB provides an easy way for busy small business owners to make their experiences known to top politicians across the UK, leading to major influences on political decisions – from preventing a huge expansion of the VAT system to financial help for high streets and town centres.
‘Big Voice’ is FSB’s survey programme which is used by thousands of members right across the UK’s nations and regions, and is completely free to join. Each survey takes only a few minutes to complete – and the results can have a real and positive impact for small businesses.
“It’s all about being able to go to political leaders with firm evidence of what small business owners are experiencing, and the impact of existing policies or the potential impact of proposed new laws and tax changes on them,” says Martin McTague.
“When you sit down with a Prime Minister, a First Minister, or members of their cabinet and make a case for something, it carries a lot more weight if you can say ‘and this is what thousands of small business owners have told us’.
“Through making the small business voice heard, great things can be achieved. As small business owners, we should stand together - in the interests of us all.”
Over the last couple of years, FSB has won a reduction in business rates worth almost £1bn, forced a U-turn on proposals to raise national insurance for the self-employed, achieved top-level action to tackle the scourge of late payments, prevented a wholesale expansion of the VAT system, and successfully campaigned for the abolition of the so-called Staircase Tax, to name just a few examples.
It’s not just at Westminster and the devolved administrations. FSB engages with politicians across the political spectrum at all levels – from the UK government to local authorities and elected mayors.
“We’re listened to because we can say with authority ‘this is what our members tell us’,” Martin McTague adds. “The more of our members who give a few minutes a month to take part in our surveys, the bigger the voice small businesses will have.”
Recent surveys have included small business owners’ experience of the energy market, broadband provision, the impact of business crime, and the contribution small businesses make to their communities. There is also a quarterly temperature-take of overall confidence levels in the Small Business Index.
If you’re an FSB member and would like to have your voice heard, you can sign up to Big Voice and help to make a big difference. https://www.fsb.org.uk/benefits/support/big-voice