The weather may be battering the country as we start to get back to work in 2014, but the forecasts for the UK economy suggest that we have plenty to the positive about as we start the New Year.
Growth forecasts point to 2.4% – the fastest we’ve seen in several years, and surveys and reports continue to suggest a gradual return of business confidence.
A positive start but the improvement remains fragile and we realise that the support we provide will be all the more important as we help you to tackle the range of challenges that still remain to turn these bright beginnings into sustainable growth in the months to come.
Cash flow and late payment
Further action is still needed on access to finance and late payment, which remain significant. Banks still need to take further action to convince the small business community that they are here to support firms looking to grow and employ, and we welcome the government showing signs of wanting to get grips with the estimated £30bn tied up in late payments.
Ongoing advice and support is crucial and we continue to build our practical advice and resources to give you need to know information on everything from managing cash flow and late payment to alternative methods of finance, working with partners including the Funding Store and Funding Circle. On the ground, we also continue to work with our partners to provide you with a range of services that can offer you significant savings on business essentials and utilities.
Sustainable business growth
While the cost of living may be a major preoccupation of the politicians in the last few months, they must not lose sight of the detrimental impact the “cost of doing business” is having on many of you, particularly when it comes to business rates and rising energy costs.
Last month’s Autumn Statement saw some welcome moves by the Chancellor on business rates and fuel duty, but these still sit at the lower end of what we would have liked to see. We will continue to push for a more fundamental review of business rates and the link to inflation as well as better transparency over where the rates go.
Business compliance costs continue to be a significant drain on members’ time as well as resources, with the total compliance bill rising by 8.5% to a £18.2 billion according to our latest survey.
We know the importance of keeping you up to date with the latest changes in employment law and health and safety and can help you save money and give you the time to concentrate on what you do best, growing your business.
“If only there were more hours in the day” is something I hear when speaking to our members up and down the country. You want timely advice, updates and tips that are quick to digest and can help you build your business, grasp opportunities for growth and that could have a real impact on your bottom line. With that in mind, we are looking to build on the bank of guides and member resources to add additional value to your membership, with advice and practical tips on everything from pensions auto-enrolment planning to exploit social media, backed up by our member helpline.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel but we certainly are not out of the woods yet. For 2014 the Forum is continuing to build on providing you with the resources, support and voice you need to turn green shoots into a sustainable recovery.
Here’s to a successful and prosperous 2014 and remember whatever the challenge we’re here to help you every step of the way.