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Small business confidence in the East suffers two-year losing streak amid calls for further government action

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said that its quarterly index underlines the considerable challenges that small firms in the East of England are continuing to face as a consequence of the pandemic.

Adding that local businesses remain determined to make it through to the other side, but in many cases that might mean taking difficult decisions over the next few months.

The innovation and adaptation that has been on show since March will continue through what is likely to be a very difficult Christmas period for many.

The FSB welcomed the Chancellor’s recent enhancement of existing schemes and is now calling for fresh interventions to help those that have received no income support to date, reduce the costs of hiring, further alleviate the business rates burden and provide more resources for those looking to start-up for the first time.

Alan Todd Image FSB

FSB East of England Policy Representative, Alan Todd, said:

“Short memories are common in a crisis but we must not forget that small firms were already under the cosh thanks to political uncertainty, rising costs and creaking infrastructure well before the Spring.

“Too many businesses are still without the help they need to weather current disruption – not least company directors, the newly self-employed, those without premises and those further down supply chains in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. An ambitious rescue package for these groups is urgently needed.

“Local authorities should use the new discretionary funds being allocated this week to assist them wherever possible.”

“With the unemployment rate rising, we’ll need to encourage more of those who are out of work to strike out on their own over the months ahead.

“A Kickstart Start-Up programme, inspired by the Kickstart employment initiative and building on the success of the Start-Up Loans and the New Enterprise Allowance programmes, could mark a way forward.

“Equally if we want small business owners to create jobs, we have to bring down the costs of employment, starting with Employer National Insurance Contributions.

“If we want them to invest, innovate and expand, we have to alleviate the strain of wider government-imposed overheads, including those stemming from an outdated business rates system which continues to stifle too many community businesses all over the country.

“Now that support measures are continuing through to the Spring, we should also avoid a scenario where businesses suddenly go from going from paying 0% to 100% of their business rates bills in April. And help should be expanded to firms in industries that have not benefited as much as those in retail, leisure and hospitality.”

The East of England Small Business Index(EESBI) [download], which measures confidence amongst businesses, has fallen since the last quarter. The level of confidence amongst East of England small business owners is -28 in Q3, a fall from -10 at Q2.

The level of uncertainty in confidence witnessed among East of England small businesses is also apparent in other areas of the country. Index scores among all the regions were in negative territory.

The FSB added that the EESBI shows one of the highest levels of confidence heading into the next three months, when compared to other English regions, and is above the country average of -33.