Autumn Statement must prioritise small businesses, says FSB

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The chancellor of the Exchequer has been urged to make small businesses a priority in his upcoming Autumn Statement.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), confidence among smaller firms recently fell into negative territory for the first time since 2012.

This, it said, is down to a number of factors, such as a weakening domestic economy, pensions auto-enrolment, rising labour costs and a business rates re-evaluation.

Furthermore, the FSB believes these concerns have been exacerbated by the outcome of the EU membership referendum in June.

As a result, the body has called on Philip Hammond to prioritise small businesses in the Autumn Statement, which he will deliver on November 23rd.

Among the measures it says will benefit smaller companies will be renewed infrastructure spending.

The FSB believes this would help to address underinvestment in vital facilities such as local roads over the years, as well as enable smaller scale projects to be delivered.

Indeed, the body pointed out that while the delivery of major projects such as Hinkley Point and Heathrow are very important, a lack of investment in local transport infrastructure has led to small businesses suffering.

"Focussed spending in this area, together with the delivery of smaller scale improvement and maintenance projects and a push for majority-UK small business supply chains and procurement, will boost connectivity and growth," said Mike Cherry, national chairman at the FSB.

Mr Hammond has also been urged to provide clarity on value for money domestic assessments for projects funded by the European Union supporting small business growth, until UK leaves the international bloc.

Furthermore, the FSB is lobbying for the tax burden to be minimised with mandatory quarterly tax reporting delayed and the business tax system realigned to incentivise growth, employment and investment.

"Smaller businesses are coping with huge challenges and an uncertain economic outlook," Mr Cherry continued.

"For us to create growth and jobs, and drive productivity, we want to see the chancellor deliver an Autumn Statement that provides much-needed support for small businesses."

Mr Cherry pointed out that more than half of its members have expressed a desire to expand their operations over the coming year.

However, he said that in order to achieve these goals, small firms need a business environment that lets them operate "efficiently and effectively".

"The new government has a major role to play," Mr Cherry stated.

He added that small businesses are a major contributor to the UK's economic growth.

This, he said, means it is important for the Autumn Statement to recognise and encourage enterprise and provide an "economic environment where smaller businesses can thrive".