In a lively time for UK politics, FSB has been making the small business case heard through this year’s political party conference season.
From Brexit to Business Rates, FSB’s leading members have been talking to politicians across the UK’s main parties on the big issues of the day for small firms.
At the Conservative conference in Manchester, National Chairman Mike Cherry spoke to Theresa May, while there was a full house for Policy Director Martin McTague’s Business Interview with the Business Secretary Greg Clark.
The conference included the announcement of former MP Paul Uppal’s appointment as the first Small Business Commissioner – a role FSB has been campaigning for, and for which Mike Cherry was on the selection panel.
Northern Ireland was also in focus – both in terms of the Irish border post-Brexit and the ongoing talks to restore the devolved Executive. Among the events FSB Northern Ireland was involved in was a panel discussion with DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill and the Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire.
Meanwhile, at the Northern Ireland Reception with the NI Conservatives, Theresa May reiterated her commitment to find a way to deliver frictionless trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic following Brexit.
At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, there was a big crowd for the FSB / New Statesman question time with John McDonnell and Martin McTague, when the Shadow Chancellor was quizzed on whether the party stood by leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to FSB members not to raise corporation tax on small businesses.
John McDonnell also agreed that the Staircase Tax – imposed on businesses in England and Wales occupying premises separated by shared stairs or corridors – needed to be looked at.
The Liberal Democrats were in Bournemouth – and so was Mike Cherry, who met party leader Sir Vince Cable and attended a series of roundtables and discussions with key Lib Dem MPs.
There was also a small business motion debated by party activists, which focused on the impact of business rates on small shops and pubs.
Plaid Cymru and the SNP will hold their conferences later this month. FSB Wales and FSB Scotland regularly meet politicians from those parties as well as others in their nations. In Scotland, one of the current big issues FSB is campaigning for is the delivery of universal superfast broadband. And in Wales, FSB is highlighting its recent report which shows the needs of medium-sized firms are not being prioritised as much as those of micro-businesses and big multinationals.
FSB hosted events with three of the new ‘metro mayors’ at the Labour and Conservative conferences – Manchester’s Andy Burnham, Birmingham’s Andy Street and Tees Valley’s Ben Houchen. Plus FSB London held receptions at both Conservative and Labour conferences.
Mike Cherry said: “FSB has a proud tradition of working with parties across the political spectrum in all parts of the UK. The fact we have had access to the most senior political figures of the day this conference season is a testament to how well FSB and its members are regarded.
“Engaging with politicians is a crucial part of making sure decision-makers and their opponents are fully aware of the importance of small businesses and the issues that affect them.”