Small business working group must have real influence

The FPB wants the working group to influence the Government to reduce the burden of tax and red tape, tackle unfair competition, and improve workplace education and skills training.

"This is fantastic news for small businesses, but only if the follow-through is as good as the rhetoric," said the FPB’s Policy Representative, Matt Goodman. "The Prime Minister should take on board what the working group has to say, and use that insight to lighten the burden of red tape and disproportionate taxation."

Currently, the interests of smaller businesses are represented by the Small Business Forum, which has no direct access to the Prime Minister, but is instead attended by Baroness Shriti Vadera, the Competitiveness Minister in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). The Small Business Forum was set up in 2007 to replace the Small Business Council, as part of the Government’s review of the service it provided for the UK’s 4.3 small firms, including members of the FPB.

In October 2007, government adviser and entrepreneur Sean Taggart resigned from the Forum because he believed it had failed to give small firms a voice in Whitehall.

Mr Taggart, Managing Director of Albatross travel in Maidstone, Kent, claimed in his resignation letter that the Forum had become ‘merely a tick box for an SME engagement agenda’.

"I resigned because I believe that the Forum cannot deliver anything meaningful for either government or business," said Mr Taggart, speaking to the FPB about his decision. "It is not independent, being chaired by a minister, and the agenda is set by the Government and not business. The time available is limited and it is insufficiently resourced. The Forum should be run by businesses for businesses, and there to inform government."

He added: "Look at the Business Council for Britain, which has access to the highest levels of government. The gap can only be bridged if the will is there at the very top."

To date, the Government has been unable to clarify how the working group will operate, or which organisations will be invited on to it. The FPB believes that the interests of the small businesses represented must be central to the creation of future enterprise policies, and that the existing financial and regulatory barriers that prevent them from growing must be removed.