The Federation of Small Businesses has made sweeping changes to its membership structures, including the appointment of one of Northern Ireland’s most successful business owners, Tina McKenzie, as Chair of the Northern Ireland Policy Unit and Brendan Kearney as Chair of the Region Group.
Ms McKenzie’s appointment marks the first change in Chair of the Policy Unit in nearly two decades, and is part of a massive programme of reform being implemented across the organisation. In addition to the appointment of a new Chair, FSB has made transformational changes to the rest of its Policy Unit with the appointment of other prominent business owners, including:
Eleanor McEvoy, CEO of Budget Energy and a ‘Dragon’ in RTE’s Dragons’ Den; Patricia O’Hagan, CEO of Core Systems Ltd; Mervyn McCall, CEO of Sliderobes and prolific angel investor; Conor Devine, founder of the GDP Partnership – a real estate and debt advisory business; Alan Lowry, MD of Environmental Street Furniture; Tommy Maguire, Commercial Director of Core Systems; George King, Owner of Merdyn Daycare Nursery and Chair of the NI Day Care Owners association; Harvey Moffat, founder of several businesses including interiors’ company Co-Design, well-known businessman, Brendan Kearney, and event organiser Marlene Marcus.
Speaking about the changes, FSB’s Head of External Affairs, Roger Pollen, said:
“These appointments give us the strength and depth we need to meet the expectations of our members when it comes to effective engagement with government at all levels.
“The Policy Unit was founded nearly two decades ago and has had the same Chairman, Wilfred Mitchell, throughout. During that time, FSB has had major lobbying successes, including introduction of new policies - such as the Small Business Rates Relief scheme, which has seen tens of millions of pounds returned to many thousands of our smaller businesses – as well as the effective resistance of policies that would have had a damaging impact.”
Commenting on her appointment as the new FSB Policy Chair, Tina McKenzie (pictured below) said: “FSB has always excelled at ‘reactive’ policy work – responding to consultations and the proposals of government and the parties - however, there is an opportunity to do much more proactive policy and advocacy – developing policies to improve the environment to help local businesses to thrive.
“This will be especially important as the Brexit negotiations move to their next phase, and I am keen for FSB to be at the heart of this debate; proposing effective solutions to help business to capitalise on the changes that are coming.”
Ms McKenzie continued: “I am particularly pleased to take up this role with FSB, as they have enriched the Policy Unit with the appointment of so many eminent business owners.
“We are in uncertain political times, and FSB has an important role to play in voicing the concerns of members across Northern Ireland and engaging effectively with government. This new group will play a major role on behalf of all our smaller businesses and we look forward to the challenge.”
FSB’s restructure will see a renewed focus on collective, grassroots campaigning, overseen by the NI Region Group which is made up of key FSB members and local staff. They will work closely with FSB’s NI Policy Unit, under the Chairmanship of one of Co Down’s best known businessmen, Brendan Kearney.
Speaking about his new role as FSB Regional Chair for Northern Ireland, Brendan Kearney said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed to this key role and want to ensure that the voice of small businesses across Northern Ireland is heard. We need to increase our focus on effective mobilisation of FSB’s grassroots activists. This means creating an environment that’s goal-led, and where any small business owner from any background or walk of life can contribute to the business campaigns they care about.
Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Volunteers are crucial to FSB’s success as it’s only by drawing on the experience of our members who run their own small businesses that FSB is able to be such a strong campaigning voice – locally and nationally. Therefore, I want to congratulate Brendan on his new role. I know he will be a strong advocate for businesses across the Province.”
“FSB was founded to enable grassroots activists to fight for change. As we look back over the last year, we can celebrate a number of significant wins for our members – continuation of the Small Business Rates Relief scheme, the scrapping of National Insurance Contribution increases for the self-employed; and reforms to Making Tax Digital – all sparked by our members being vocal at the local level.”
“This restructure is about ensuring all of our members have their voices heard and are equipped with the tools they need to create change. That is, after all, where FSB has its roots.”