Small businesses need support in these extremely challenging times, with around 50,000 businesses at the beginning of 2021 fearing they could go out of business without more support.
The FSB London Region has released its Manifesto for the scheduled Mayoral and London Assembly with a clear need for Government at all level to support small firms. That solid ‘backbone’ has been badly damaged as a result of the crisis but the army of businesses that make up 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses in the capital, can recover with the right support.
Key recommendations in the document are for a new Mayor to:
- – Promote alternative forms of finance as small firms with debt (particularly from minority backgrounds) struggle to recover from the pandemic.
- – Support the High Street with the development of a ‘Landlord/Tenant Board’ – with the aim of sharing best practice to create innovative support mechanisms such as turnover based rent, rent step-ups (low to start, then increasing) and using empty space for local business pop-ups at affordable prices.
- – Create a procurement system that enables business owners from small firms’ equal opportunities to their larger counterparts – particularly BAME owned businesses.33 per cent of all GLA contracts to go to self-employed, micro and small businesses by 2025
- – Part-fund apprenticeships that support small businesses (coupled with Central Government support) – up to the value of £500 per apprentice
- – Skills vouchers to be available for all small businesses in London to access either Export, Digital Marketing and Sales skills support.
- – Reform the current environmental and congestion pricing systems in London as they are no longer fit for purpose. We must also enable periods of grace and understanding with the rollout of the ULEZ in October 2021 to support small firms suffering financially as a result of the pandemic.
On the release of the Manifesto, Rowena Howie, FSB London Policy Chair, said, “The Election of Mayor and London Assembly will be held when it is safe to do. In the face of adversity small businesses have shown remarkable resilience, many not receiving any Government support. We call upon leaders to use their positions to fight for small businesses because we know it will be these entrepreneurs who lead the recovery leading to a reinvigorated economy.
Nearly all (97 per cent) of small businesses went into the pandemic saying that wellbeing is ‘important’ to the success of their business. Health and wellbeing amongst small business owners has taken a significant hit as a result of the crisis. This issue must be at the forefront of Mayoral thinking –FSB is now urging the connection of the mental health and wellbeing small business sector in London with public sector opportunities via the NHS social prescribing service.
On creating the most diverse and healthy workforce of the future, Rowena, said, “London is characterised by its glorious diversity. Many disadvantaged groups have been negatively affected throughout the pandemic. We must be inclusive in everything we do and the Mayor must create the environment for businesses to see diversity and inclusion as integral to business recovery – particularly how these groups access finance, procurement opportunities, training and general business support”
On Skills Support, Rowena, said, “Investing in and accessing the right skills will support small businesses looking to recover and create further jobs in the capital – particularly those who face the threat of long-term unemployment. With almost 7 in 10 small firms saying they want to invest in skills for either them or their employees in 2021, we must introduce an Apprenticeship Grant and skills vouchers will enable small firms to increase job opportunities in their business.”
On transport support: Rowena added, “Recent survey carried out by the FSB shows that small businesses need more time to prepare for the ULEZ expansion later this year and that they need financial support to upgrade to non-polluting vehicles. Helping small businesses understand how they can achieve net zero and provide schemes that adequately help small businesses to plan and prepare are vital.’