Local business support falling short

The support being given to small businesses by local government is getting worse across the UK according to seven in ten business leaders questioned in a new poll.

The Business Census 2017 report by Company Check surveyed 1,300 firms in November and December and found that 70% were unhappy with the support they received from their local authority. This represents an increase of 10% in a year.

Almost three-quarters (73%) said they expected their business to grow this year, with that growth expected to come mostly from production (34%), followed by marketing (25%). That's an increase on the 63% of firms who said they expected to grow this time last year.

The main concern for business leaders was the economy (cited by 36%). Not surprisingly, concerns about political events have almost doubled compared to 2016; one in three (30%) of those polled said political events were their "biggest challenge" - an increase of 90% on the year before. However, 55% said that Brexit had made no difference to their business so far.

Most businesses (60%) said they were either quite or very optimistic about the outlook for the UK economy in 2017, down from 67% last year. The issue of recruitment - named the biggest single challenge for a quarter of companies two years ago - was down to just 9% for 2017.

Author of the report Katie Deverill said: "It's to be expected that the economy is the biggest concern, but what is striking is the growing disaffection with local authorities when it comes to supporting and nurturing business growth. The Government should take note of these figures and recognise that something in the current system just isn't working."

Also this week, a new survey by accountants Smith & Williamson has found that less than half of SMEs polled (49%) said current Government policy is supportive of private enterprise. Over the past six months, belief in Government support has fallen by 20%.

Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services at Smith & Williamson, said that "apparent lack of Government understanding of SME issues is a particular concern" and that "the flow of new initiatives has been relentless. Like buses, they've all come at once."

  • Excellent service and Barbara was brilliant; professional, thorough, cool head and friendly/personable.