2016 started with the passing of David Bowie and it was certainly a politically unpredictable year. In 2017 it is vitally important for Policymakers and politicians to think small first and support the ‘Heroes’ of modern society – The Small Businesses who are ‘Under Pressure’ and ones most adaptable to ‘Changes’.
Confidence amongst small businesses in the capital fell following the Brexit vote. The importance to small firms in the capital of being able to access the skills needed across the EU, and beyond, cannot be underestimated by Brexit negotiators. The loss of ‘passporting’ rights for financial services could cause companies in the sector to relocate to other markets.
Over 1 million EU workers in London were born in EU countries outside the UK. Their vital skills from construction to professional services are critical to London’s success and we must strive to get the best deal for them and the businesses they serve.
But the timing of triggering ‘Article 50’ must not mask the other burning issues facing small businesses in the capital. When we hear the term ‘London is paved with Gold’ we have to remember the fact that a significant amount of businesses are faced with swingeing business rates increases in April this year. Furthermore, FSB research shows that Eight in ten (81%) businesses in the Capital expect to see an increase in their commercial rent; and 30% do not expect to be in the same property in the next five years.
The FSB argues that the creation (in 2017) of a shared open digital database of rents and service charges across London, which should be endorsed by the new Mayor of London, would move to improve transparency around rents and commercial space costs.
Housing will continue to impact on small businesses with a quarter of small businesses saying that the cost and availability of housing in the Capital is impacting negatively on their business. FSB agrees that supply of housing must be a critical focus but that the ratio of new homes being deemed ‘affordable’ must be over 50% to ensure the workers and business owners themselves in small businesses are able to work and live in the greatest city on Earth.
The phrase ‘London is Open’ will continue through media channels but it is important for Government and the Mayor to work together to push through key infrastructural projects. FSB is keen to see funding settlements for Crossrail 2 which will give a clear signal that ‘London is open’ to investment and opportunities for small firms that benefitted from major projects such as Crossrail and the 2012 Games. And, making the whole of London a 1Gb Broadband City is an aspiration that we should be working towards in 2017.
Small businesses will continue to create wealth and the jobs in the capital. Although confidence has dipped it will not prevent the stoicism and dynamism that will benefit wider society. FSB London will continue to work with the Mayor and all political parties to influence change but sensible, stable and supportive policy measures should be the name of the game for 2017.
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