FSB is today making the case for a fresh iteration of business support measures as its new survey of London members show confidence remains low. FSB is particularly concerned by the volume of businesses who are struggling to get a business bank account at this time and, thus, an inability to secure vital Bounce Back Loans.
The UK’s largest business group welcomed the Chancellor’s enhancement of existing schemes last week and is now calling for fresh interventions to help those that have received no income support to date, reduce the costs of hiring, further alleviate the business rates burden and provide more resources for those looking to start-up for the first time.
The Q3 London SBI confidence figure stands at -26, exactly the same as the last quarter. That being said, London small businesses report the highest levels of confidence for the next 3 months, when compared to other English regions, and is above the country average.
A record 30% of small firms say they have reduced headcount since last quarter. However, a lower proportion (16%) expect to make redundancies over the coming three months – we hope that the Chancellor’s recent announcements will mean that many small firms will avoid starting 30 day redundancy notices.
Overall sentiment towards revenue is negative, with small businesses in London the most likely to report a decline in revenue in the last 3 months compared to other regions in the UK. In Q3, almost two thirds (63%) of small businesses in London reported a decrease in revenue over the last 3 months, as the nationwide lockdown had a considerable impact on spending opportunities for consumers. Some resilience was shown by London businesses, however, with 27% reporting an increase in profit levels over the period.
Last week, FSB London wrote to Minister for London Paul Scully and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on the need for joined up political messaging – and in particular, resolving the TFL bailout in a way that prioritises London’s ability to recover. The small business community needs clarity and assurance, not, confusion and discouragement over an extension of the congestion charge extension to the North and South Circular and significant increases to council taxes and fares.
FSB London Policy Chair, Rowena Howie, said, “It is confidence and certainty that businesses need at this time, particularly for businesses most in need of support in the hospitality, retail and tourism related sectors. We must create the opportunities for recovery for businesses within the Central Activity Zone and wider to the outer London boroughs. A lot of small businesses have shelled out thousands to make their premises safe at a time when they had little or no revenue coming in only to be told to close. Securing a swift and positive TfL bailout EU deal will provide a fillip for many small businesses at what has been an extremely difficult time.”
On Bank finance, Rowena added, “Access to finance for many small businesses in the capital is now business critical. These institutions who are not supporting viable, honest and credit worthy businesses with business accounts and, subsequently, business loans, need to urgently hear the cries of these firms and provide vital support. Financial institutions need to show flexibility, adaptability and innovation urgently as, put simply, livelihoods depend on it.”