Small firms launch ‘Back to Business’ manifesto as polling day looms
- UK’s largest business group outlines recommendations for next government as new analysis reveals role of small firms in communities
- Calls for business rates reform, support with ‘jobs tax’ and end to late payment crisis; stresses need for infrastructure investment and fit for purpose broadband
- Urges policymakers to back the self-employed with adoption, maternity and paternity pay, help to access financial products, and overhaul of Universal Credit
With fewer than four weeks until the UK heads to the polls, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which represents small firms and the self-employed, is today launching it’s Back to Business 2019 manifesto.
Fresh analysis from the group shows that there are typically 7,000 sole traders in every UK constituency, part of a wider community of more than 25,000 people who work in smaller businesses.
As many high streets across the country continue to struggle, FSB is asking the next Government to fundamentally reform business rates, by enhancing and making permanent the Retail Discount – which entitles small shops in England to a third off their rates bills – and removing more small businesses from the system altogether.
The small business group is also calling on the Government to reduce the burden of Employer’s National Insurance Contributions, which effectively serve as a ‘jobs tax’, by uprating the Employment Allowance. Doing so would, as in years past, ensure that no small business employing four people on the National Living Wage pays Employer’s NICs.
Elsewhere, FSB is reiterating the need to implement the measures it has previously secured which are aimed at ending a £2.5 billion late payment crisis that destroys 50,000 businesses a year. They include:
– Holding boards accountable for poor supply chain treatment by making the audit committee of every large business responsible for payment practices.
– Properly empowering a swiftly appointed Small Business Commissioner.
– Banning late payers from all public sector procurement opportunities.
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “For the last three years, the interminable uncertainty around Brexit has dragged focus, attention and imagination away from the task of helping the UK’s 5.8 million small businesses to survive, grow, and enhance our communities.
“It’s time to get back to business.
“We are urging all candidates standing at this election to listen to, and make every effort to understand, the challenges faced by small firms in the communities they hope to represent.”
With confidence among the self-employed hitting a fresh low last quarter, FSB is urging policymakers to focus attention on how to help the UK’s self-employed population by:
– Delaying changes to IR35, or ‘off-payroll working’, rules set to take effect in April 2020.
– Making Universal Credit work for the self-employed, namely by reforming the Minimum Income Floor to reflect the reality that sole traders are not paid in regular monthly instalments.
– Bringing the maternity allowance for self-employed mothers in-line with statutory maternity pay and introducing paternity and adoption allowances for sole traders.
– Providing a ‘legislative lock’ for the self-employed, ensuring that any measure brought forward to help employees is accompanied by a corresponding action to help sole traders.
– Encouraging banks to do more to assist sole traders who apply for mortgages and introduce pension dashboards to help the self-employed keep track of their savings.
Mike Cherry added: “One in seven people work for themselves. Yet the self-employed have always found themselves at the back of the queue when it comes to policymaking.
“With the number of people in self-employment now equalling the number of people employed in the public sector, it’s clear that this situation can no longer be justified.
“The nature of self-employment means solutions that work for employees do not always work for the self-employed. The next Government should set aside time, effort and resource to right this wrong.”
And with investment tumbling over the course of this year, the group is calling for a radical uplift in infrastructure funding over the next parliament to ensure that all small firms have access to:
– Local roads that are fit for purpose, through a doubling of spending on local networks, and a ring-fencing of this funding.
– The download speeds they are entitled to under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) by 2021 and broadband connectivity by 2025, with an ambition to deliver full fibre by this point.
– Good mobile phone signal, enabled by swift delivery of 4G and 5G auctions, a closing of the mobile coverage gap between different nations, and a shared rural mobile network.
Mike Cherry concluded: “The state of our national infrastructure is, frankly, an embarrassment.
“Enough is enough. We need to get on with rolling out the ambitious investment needed to make our road, rail and digital networks fit for purpose.”
As experts in business, FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in Government. Its aim is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy.