The government spotlight is firmly on small businesses at the moment, with proposals of assistance including a six-month VAT holiday, reduced payment periods for local authority accounts, and today, a 1p cut in national insurance. Following the interest rate hikes of a few weeks ago, when many large banks significantly increased their interest rates, this has got to be positive news. The Federation of Small Businesses has stated that 653k small business customers are now facing interest rates of 10% above base rate - a typical rate is 6%.
It's not all bad news though. Last week, BT's Small Business 2008 event was generally considered very successful, addressing issues affecting the sector, such as the economic climate and the challenge of winning and retaining business - with help from top senior business executives such as Dragons' Den entrepreneur Peter Jones (who has made a significant investment in, and will head up, the government's new National Enterprise Academy). BT puts the number of small businesses at around 4.6 million - figures vary and the general belief is that there are probably an awful lot more that don't show up on anyone's radar.
The feeling amongst industry figures seems to be that small businesses are a powerful engine, and given the right encouragement and assistance, can play a significant in part in driving local and national economies.
Small Business blog met Emma Jones, Director of Enterprise Nation on Friday, and Emma was very encouraged by all the activity around small business as the moment. Actively involved in influencing the powers that be on the best way to help small business Enterprise Nation has compiled a report (sponsored by BT) on home-based business, which you can download, free of charge, from their website.
On the downside, Jeremy Vyne has just reminded me (not personally, but via Radio 2!) that the government is now apparently considering abandoning the family-friendly flexible working proposals (right to request flexi-time etc) that were due to come into effect next April.
Related link: Microsoft Financing Solutions