The current situation for SMEs and the self-employed locally
As you can probably imagine it has been a bewildering three weeks for all local businesses in this area. The sheer scale and size of the pandemic has left many businesses wondering whether they will be able to continue and left all of them desperately seeking access to any of the support, which you as councils and other agencies are trying hard to process. The FSB has been greatly encouraged by many of the announcements coming from the Government and have been party to many of them – we spent hours with the Chancellor thrashing out details in the run up to the self-employment package for example – and there is a general feeling among the businesses I talk to that they believe everyone, very much including you as our local council/LEP representatives, are on their side and trying everything possible to help them.
The major frustration, which I’m sure you are also all feeling, is that although all the bold announcements made at press conferences were broadly welcomed the details of how that money filters from the Treasury into your accounts and then into the accounts of our businesses was much less clear, and we know all agencies are overwhelmed at the moment and struggling to keep up with limited and reducing staff numbers. As well as a frustration about the timing of receiving funds, many members are also telling us that they don’t understand the minutiae of some of the schemes that have been provided and of course there is also quite a significant amount of people who don’t feel as though they have been supported at all particularly those who are directors rather than employees of their own small business and those who are just above the threshold of £50,000 profits per annum. These are the anomalies that we are currently lobbying hard on even though the Chancellor has made it quite clear publicly that there is no guarantee that every business can be supported. That, however, doesn’t mean we will not continue to represent and support them all as best we can and the FSB has issued a press on this today (see FSB Press Release on more support)
Our engagement with you
We have been very pleased to be able to talk to a number of you about these issues and also to be part of various Covid-19 virtual task forces and groups such as those run by Bristol City Council, the West of England LEP and more. If you have a group, looking at how business is coping with the current situation then please let us know and we’ll do our best to be part of it and feed any information in you need as we are talking to businesses from your patch all the time. We are also a good conduit to take back any issues and frustrations we hear to our national policy team who are working round-the-clock with the powers that be on all these issues.
In addition, as and when you get new information about grants etc, then please let me know as soon as possible and I can help share it via social media but also by direct email to our members so they are fully aware of your work. I’ve already done this for a number of councils including Gloucester, the Cotswolds, B&NES, the Forest of Dean, Tewkesbury and Bristol and I’m happy to keep doing it for them and all the others. We are getting an incredible amount of traction with members and non-members at the moment so please use us to get your message out.
Joint council/FSB membership price reduction scheme
Across the UK a number of councils are now joining up with the FSB to jointly fund a reduced price membership scheme to our services which will then give some struggling small business owners or the self-employed access to our 24-hour legal support advisors, employment, insurance and finance experts as well as all the other benefits we, as a not-for-profit organisation, offer to members. I will send details of this scheme in a separate email but in the meantime if you would like to know more it then please let me know as this may be a way for your council to actively and tangibly show your support for some of its businesses and can give them extra, vital support that isn’t freely available elsewhere.
FSB contacts for you and for sharing
Please don’t hesitate to contact me on any of the contact points at the foot of this email and if you do get any small business ringing and wanting more general information about the support, grants and help that may be available then feel free to send them to our FSB coronavirus hub FSB Coronavirus Hub which is open to members and non-members and is being constantly updated – or invite them to follow us locally on Twitter (@FSBGlosandWoE), Facebook (https://business.facebook.com/FSB.GloucestershireBristolBath/) or at my LinkedIn page @SamHolliday. They will be the avenues I will use to pass on any messages you have (along with our weekly email newsletter and emails which I can specifically send to members in a particular authority/LEP area).
Thank you for reading and can I also thank you for all the hard work you are doing? I know – because we are in the same boat too – that you and your teams have probably never worked as hard as you have in the past couple of weeks with limited budgets and limited staff resources and I can assure you that every small business which will get the reliefs, grants and support that you have to administer will be very grateful for everything you have done. It is the biggest cliché in the world but for once, it really does seem apt – we ARE all in this together.