Keep on banks' backs, FSB tells Whitehall
COMMITMENTS in the Queen s Speech to address issues in the banking sector, internet provision and the energy markets must be followed through, rather than being used for political gain, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned. Malcolm Lyons, H
COMMITMENTS in the Queen's Speech to address issues in the banking sector, internet provision and the energy markets must be followed through, rather than being used for political gain, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.
Malcolm Lyons, Huntingdonshire chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "It has been a tough year for small businesses, with shoppers spending less, larger companies paying their small suppliers later and banks only just starting to lend again, although often at high rates.
"Many are starting to feel confident about their future prospects, and it is important that any legislation in the next few months, particularly on the banking sector, helps to develop that good feeling rather than being used to divide up the political ground ahead of the General Election."
The federation added: "The banking sector reform proposals have the potential to help the quarter of small businesses still struggling to access affordable finance, and we welcome support for those grappling with broadband access and looking to play their part in moving towards a low carbon economy. However, small firms must feel the benefit of these proposals rather than becoming victims of pre-election rivalry."
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In detail, the FSB said:
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Any changes in the governance of the finance sector must not be pure political rhetoric, but must translate into improvements in access to finance for small firms. Access to finance needs to be improved through more competition for small business banking on the high street and improving the availability of mortgages for the self-employed.
The role of regional development agencies and their devolved equivalents should be expanded to provide more flexible finance locally, while the post office network should be turned into a Post Bank, offering support for small firms by utilising the network.
The FSB has also called for the Chancellor to be creative when selling off parts of the nationalised banks of Lloyds Banking Group, RBS and Northern Rock by ensuring they can be purchased only by new entrants to the market and provide a greater focus on small business banking.
More than half of small businesses rely on the internet for up to 50 per cent of their annual turnover, so the online world is crucial to small business development. The Government must show its support for firms, particularly in rural Britain where businesses have been waiting for years for promised Government action to deal with the 'notspots' - where there is no broadband access.
However, the FSB believes that a broadband tax to subsidise the target of a minimum of 2mb/s of broadband will only deter the private sector from improving its own infrastructure. Small businesses should not have to pay for a service that could be encouraged by opening up the market to more competition from internet providers who should then be compelled to install more efficient and effective speeds to attract the consumer.
With the Government committed to a low carbon economy, it is important that any legislation in this area does not hinder small firms through a one-size fits all approach. FSB research shows that the majority of small businesses are keen to play their part. The majority are already actively engaged in recycling and monitoring their energy consumption and over a third use environmentally friendly products. It was essential that any levy placed on the energy suppliers for carbon capture is not passed on to hard-pressed households and small businesses that are already facing increasingly large energy bills, the FSB added.