The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has recently published its latest ‘Small Business Index’. This quarterly survey of small businesses across the UK, reveals how current operating conditions are impacting upon their activities, achievements and aspirations.
The results, based upon more than 1,600 responses, make for sobering reading. They show a quarter in which confidence has remained in negative territory, lay-offs have hit all-time high and more than half of those that export have reported international sales falling. In fact two thirds of those surveyed said that they expected their performance would worsen rather than improve.
It is of course easy to understand the reasons behind these down-beat findings. The Coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt all our lives, UK-EU trade talks remain unresolved and some sectors were facing challenges due to rising costs and poor quality infrastructure long before these were thrown into the mix. In addition, many company directors, the newly self-employed, those without premises and those further down supply chains in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors have been ineligible for Government support and are now battling for their very survival.
Taken together, these factors mean that the prospect of any sustained economic recovery is stalling, just as we face an incredibly difficult trading period in the run-up to Christmas and the end of the transition period.
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Naturally we welcomed the Chancellor’s enhancement of existing schemes last week, with some very helpful adjustments to support measures. It’s critical that the new Job Support Scheme is straightforward to use, the self-employed can access the help they require and that local authority cash grants reach as many of those in need as possible, as swiftly as possible.
In addition, we are calling for an ambitious rescue package for those that have received little or no support to date; help for those who are out of work and want to strike out on their own over the months ahead; and encouragement for small business owners to create jobs by bringing down the costs of employment, starting with Employer National Insurance Contributions.
Bold measures to boost business, generate jobs and create confidence should be the top priorities right now.