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Budget must ‘address’ small business confidence

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The 2009 Budget, which will be delivered on 22 April, must focus on improving business confidence, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) has said.

In its submission to the Chancellor, the business group argued that there are four key issues that need to be focused on in order to help revive the economy.

These include improving access to finance for small businesses; minimising the cost burdens of small businesses; protecting employment; and improving economic activity.

The FPB’s most recent quarterly referendum of its members found that restoring business confidence (65 per cent) and restoring consumer confidence (63 per cent) topped the list of issues that firms want the Chancellor to prioritise in this year’s Budget.

Phil Orford, the FPB’s chief executive, said: “Rebuilding confidence is key to ensuring that small businesses are able to survive and, ultimately, as the economy recovers, begin to grow again.

“That means workable policies creating the right conditions for both small businesses and consumers, which is why we are urging the Government to implement short- and longer-term strategies to help bolster cash flow, remove costly barriers to growth, protect key staff and stimulate trade. At present, most business owners are receiving confusing messages from the government and the banks.”

Of those firms that responded to the survey, 82 per cent voiced concerns that taxation will be increased on smaller businesses to pay for the measures announced in the government’s pre-Budget Report.

The planned rise in National Insurance, set for 2011, was considered to be ‘damaging’ by 62 per cent and ‘very damaging’ by 29 per cent.

Other issues that were regarded as important to small businesses in the FPB’s Budget survey included business rates (59 per cent), the cost of utilities (52 per cent), minimising other regulations (50 per cent), taxation policy (49 per cent), health and safety law (40 per cent), late payment/bad debt provisions (37 per cent) and access to finance (35 per cent).