As founder of the UK's most active small business network, I hear from and meet with small businesses every day. In the decade in which Enterprise Nation has been in business, we've reported that these small businesses feel confident and optimistic about the future. But I'm beginning to doubt that premise.
That's why we've called together 14 small business bodies to form the Small Business Taskforce. It's time to work a little harder to ensure the voice of small business is heard in policy making and to argue for the entrepreneurial conditions that have helped start-ups thrive in the past five years, to remain intact.
The UK has become one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor puts the UK at number one in Europe and number four globally. This has not happened by chance. It's not the by-product of an under-employed workforce trying to get by. It happened because of the comparatively low costs of start-up entry, accessible technology, a flexible economy and a positive attitude towards self-starters and entrepreneurship; from the media, large corporates, and government.
We want to make sure all this hard work does not go to waste and that the Government takes the time to listen to the smallest firms as it begins to set new parameters for migrant workers, new budgets and new trade deals. We need to be included.
As organisations representing small businesses of all shapes and sizes, reflecting the new world of work, from every region, we are committed to ensuring the UK retains this leading global entrepreneurship position.
Our alliance comprises the Forum of Private Business, Enterprise Nation, the ICAEW, the RSA, Coadec, The Entrepreneurs Network, the Centre for Entrepreneurs, EISA, IPSE, GEW, National Enterprise Network, Bright Ideas Trust, NACUE and Social Enterprise UK.
This diverse group includes think tanks, research bodies, coders, social enterprises, those that represent the self-employed as well as small business groups.
Together, we represent over a million businesses and recognise that there are key factors that have enabled them to flourish. We want to know that those negotiating Britain's future can ensure these conditions remain in place, as Brexit deals are negotiated and a new government makes its mark. To achieve that, we feel work and commitment is required around:
We call on the Government to provide clear and unequivocal reaffirmation of the long-term residence rights of EU citizens currently working in the UK. We also call for the Government to commit to keeping our labour market flexible which gives the UK a real comparative advantage over our European competitors.
Workable tax regime
While the Government has already committed to a lowering of Corporation Tax, we call for a commitment to no increases to National Insurance, and agreement from departments that consultation will continue to be carried out with those representing small firms ahead of introducing any further tax changes. For example quarterly digital tax data and any potential exemptions and reforms to Corporation Tax.
Accessible business support
Many variations of support have been introduced over the years, from Business Link to Growth Vouchers and Growth Accelerator. A percentage of these programmes have been underpinned by EU funds. We would like to see a review of funding available for business support and plans for its expenditure.
International trade for all
One in five small firms currently exports. Exporting increases productivity and leads to employment and growth. But while Brexit has brought opportunity, it has brought complication and a squeeze on margins for some of the smallest firms. There has never been a more critical time to encourage British firms to take their business to the world and offer help to navigate new issues. We recommend government experiments with export support, for the smallest of firms, in the form of Export Vouchers and Export Tax Credits, and rapidly show progress on trade deals with countries eager to do business including the US, China, Australia and New Zealand.
Consultation with small business
To ensure that small business views are taken into account in trade deals and domestic policy, we have formed a Small Business Taskforce to offer government a clear route to over a million small businesses and self-employed individuals in a single vehicle.
The taskforce jointly makes these five recommendations and is prepared to help the Government work on fresh plans of what business support and procurement could look like in a post-Brexit world. We are in tandem working on policy recommendations to share with Government.
We welcome the opportunity to work closely with Government to ensure the small business base of Britain can continue to prosper, delivering economic and social returns to our country.
We're writing to MPs and to the Prime Minister Theresa May - and everyone who will listen. We hope this will mean the Government listens to the voice of a million small businesses as it moves into its next phase of tough Brexit decisions.