Mixed Picture as FSB polls SMEs in Quarterly Survey

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) latest ‘Voice of Small Business’ Index — its quarterly survey of confidence among UK small business — reveals that bank funding is still scarce and confidence is falling among many of the UK’s small businesses.

Four in ten small firms have been refused credit by high street banks according to the survey. However, more than 50 per cent of respondents said they still plan to grow their businesses over the coming 12 months. But the proportion of firms looking to grow rapidly shrank from 10.9 per cent in Q1 to 7.2 per cent in Q2.

The research also shows a tenth consecutive quarter of job cutbacks with a net balance of 3.9% of respondents announcing layoffs.

Of 17 industry sectors measured, confidence fell in all but two. Confidence rose moderately in health and social work related firms, as well as vehicle sales and maintenance companies. All other sectors reported a fall with financial and real estate services showing a dramatic decrease.

And the survey finds that there were further sharp falls in confidence in retailing, leisure, sports and entertainment, as well as hotels and the restaurant and bar trade. A moderate decline in confidence was reported in manufacturing, IT and other business services.

With the sharp decline in confidence in key London industries such as finance and property, confidence levels in London have remained in negative territory. Confidence in the capital is now on a par with Northern Ireland at -6 points.

By contrast, confidence has bounced in the North East, with the region reporting a 25-point jump over the quarter putting it at the top of the league table.

John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

“This ongoing credit squeeze is becoming critical. Government is relying on small business growth to drag the UK out of recession. The will of small businesses to grow is there but the money to enable them to do so is not.”

“If small firms cannot access credit, it constrains their investment plans. We know from past research that many small businesses missed growth opportunities because they couldn’t access the money they needed. There needs to be more competition in the finance and banking sector because only when there are more options to choose from will small firms get a fairer deal.”

For the latest full report, and historical copies, visit the FSB’s ‘Voice of Small Business’ Index.

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