By Rachel Tyrrell
Shropshire-based SMEs face a number of challenges, and the Federation of Small Business is there to campaign and support issues on their behalf.
At the popular Telford networking event at the Marches Growth Hub, Priorslee, Telford & Wrekin Council leader Shaun Davies listened to many concerns directly.
Reliable and strong broadband continues to be an issue for many businesses. FSB research reveals that 94 per cent of small business owners rate a reliable broadband connection as critical to the success of their business. The report submitted to Government in 2014 “The Fourth Utility” campaigns for connectivity of a minimum 10 Mbps.
My discussions with business owners reveal that regulation in general is a worry; as the time taken can be disproportionate relative to resource of a small business. As such business owners often have to be experts in all areas of business, in complex areas, it may be necessary to engage a consultant. Auto-enrolment is an example of this.
Auto-enrolment is a difficult topic, in that it is generally accepted that future pension planning and contributions are inadequate. Auto-enrolment is part of the Government’s measures to address this.
By requiring employers to establish and contribute towards their employees’ pension scheme is both an administrative and financial burden. Indeed at 2015 FSB Conference, delegates made to clear to Nick Clegg Deputy PM at that time, that AE was a major deterrent in employing staff. However there are low cost solutions to comply with the AE requirements and we can help with that.
Business rates continues to be a concern; FSB has campaigned on this issue since 2005. FSB is urging the Government to act in the Budget on 8th March, on precisely these lines, following last year’s commitment to provide £6.7bn of assistance for smaller businesses, taking many out of the system altogether.
Previous interventions by the Government, backed by FSB, have resulted in 600,000 small businesses receiving 100% relief and therefore protected from the current business rate changes. But the extent of loss faced by some small businesses who are still in scope has created an unacceptable situation and we look forward to hearing the Chancellor’s proposals at the Spring Budget.
However what always warms me is the supportive collaboration of the small business community, which I consider to be strong in Shropshire. Rather than competing we often see “rival” businesses working together in a common goal and supporting each other.
An example of this is the “Made in Shropshire” collaboration which is a showcase for local artists, design-makers and food producers.