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News - 23 March 2010

SMEs not bothered about the budget

Only one in five small businesses is concerned about the Budget. Is this because they are quietly confident or are they just past caring? Or do they have more significant issues to focus their attention on?

Barely a fifth of small business owners believe this week’s budget will have a significant impact on their businesses.

In a survey of its members, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that only 22% are factoring the budget in their plans for 2010.

Even fewer (19%) small business owners believe the general election will have an impact on their plans.

The Forum’s quarterly Referendum ballot revealed that day-to-day concerns are much more likely to be at the forefront of business owners’ minds.

Sales and turnover emerged as the leading concern for small firms when planning for 2010, emerging as an issue for 77% of respondents. Meanwhile, 71% said they were planning for the year ahead by thinking about profitability and 69% by being concerned with cash flow.

Staffing was also high up the priority list, with employee levels being a concern for 60% of those surveyed.

Commenting on the results, the Forum’s research manager, Thomas Parry, said, “I think there’s a certain amount of cynicism about this year’s Budget and this research reflects that.

“A lot of business owners are simply presuming that there’s going to be another budget straight after the election so they’re not paying it too much attention.

“The things they are concerned with at the moment are the more pressing issues associated with running a business in a struggling economy. While I think there has been a noticeable increase in confidence among small firms over the past 12 months, things like cash flow, employment law and business rates are still at the forefront of our members’ minds.”

Referendum also asked Forum members what state support schemes they wanted to see increased or retained in the near future.

HMRC’s Time to Pay tax deferral scheme emerged as the favourite, with an overwhelming 66% of respondents giving it their approval. The second favourite was 10-day payment by Government bodies, which 58% of respondents wanted to see either increased or retained.

“Most of the Government support schemes we listed drew a pretty apathetic response but Time to Pay proved hugely popular, as did 10-day payment by public bodies,” Mr Parry said.

“This reinforces the theme of business owners knuckling down and concentrating on essential, day-to-day financial concerns in order to ensure their firms’ survival.”

The Forum also quizzed its members on the forthcoming Equality Bill. An overwhelming 77% of members said their businesses were already well able to recruit the best employees regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, casting further doubt on the need for more workplace anti-discrimination legislation.

Additionally, less than half (49%) were sure they understood the existing equality and diversity laws and 13% knew a business owner who had encountered problems due to the legislation.

Mr Parry added: “More than 50% of those surveyed feel as though they don’t understand the legislation they currently have to comply with, so it is imperative that the Equality Bill does not further complicate the obligations businesses face in this area.”

Read related items on:
The Budget
Forum of Private Business
Parry, Tom

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