Forum of Private Business lays Budget wish list
Leading small business support organisation, the Forum of Private Business, is seeking to ensure that the new chancellor has business at the centre of his forthcoming budget by laying down seven key priorities that are seen as critical to a thriving SME sector.
Introducing the FPB Budget wish list, managing director of the Forum, Ian Cass, said, “With his constituency in North Yorkshire, the new chancellor should well understand both the challenges faced by small businesses and the issues of operating outside of the Westminster bubble. We hope he will have both front of mind as he draws up his first budget and take note of the seven key areas we have set out. These are all within his mandate either to address or influence others to address.”
The Forum priorities are:
The uncertainty, not whether Brexit will happen, but more what it will look like as a result of the current negotiations, remains a key area of concern for many small businesses. “Big business has the time and resources to be able to decipher government announcements, smaller businesses do not, so they need clear guidance as to what’s happening, what it means to them and what action if any they should be,” emphasises Ian Cass.
• Business Rates
For far too long business rates have been causing problems for small businesses. They prevent growth and expansion and are not a fair tax. A thorough review of business rates is called for, with alternatives put forward to create a much more level playing field.
Rural and regional businesses are at a material disadvantage when compared to their large town and London peers, both in digital connectivity and physical connectivity.
The promised improvement of north south travel consequent on HS2 is obviously welcomed, but the benefits will not be seen in the short term. Investment commitments are needed now to address the county’s declining road conditions, and, in the north, east west public transport connectivity. Similarly in the southwest the poor communications network beyond Exeter leave Cornish and Devon businesses heavily disadvantaged.
Digital connectivity likewise needs addressing to put small businesses in rural locations on the same footing as those in our towns and cities.
• Late Payment
Big businesses paying small businesses late remains one of the biggest blockers to small businesses growing, and in some cases surviving. Efforts have been made in the past to name and shame late payers, but more needs to be done to enforce a prompt payment culture on big businesses.
Ian Cass emphasises the importance of the Government taking a responsibility line in their own procurement practices. “Late payment is perennially a key issue on the Forum’s annual wish list. It is high time it was addressed once and for all, with the Government not only bringing in policies to penalise those seeing late payment as an acceptable way to do business, but to veto major corporates who treat prompt payment with distain in terms of their own procurement.”
• Tax Equalisation
Our tax code is too complex and not only open to abuse, but blatantly actually abused by big businesses with the resources to exploit loopholes. All small and micro and small businesses want is a level playing field, with a clear straightforward rules set being applied to businesses in the same way, irrespective of size. The Forum is calling for a formal, independent Task Force to be put in place, with the power to review current inconsistencies and recommend the implementation of changes within a defined timeframe that will ensure real results.
“Finding the right people to do the right jobs remains a huge barrier to growth for many businesses,” says Ian Cass. “The Forum is calling on the chancellor to make investment available both to drive a more focused business skills agenda in the schools’ curriculum, and also in adult learning. With the speed of technological change now so great, we need to provide accessible training for all, irrespective of age and seniority, so that we remain at the forefront of the world in optimising the use of new and emerging efficiencies.”
• Rebalancing the Economy
Never has the time been better for recognising that the regional economies are equally as important as the narrow economy linked to the Westminster bubble. The prime minister has committed to invest in the regions, and the Forum is looking for the chancellor to respect this through a supported funding programme to encourage and enable a material economic rebalancing.
“With the political stability that the election has brought, the chancellor has the ability to address issues that have disadvantaged small businesses for decades and we very much hope that he will take the opportunity to do so,” adds Ian Cass.