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More support demanded

250,000 small business owners say they may close

Mike Cherry

Mike Cherry: cost to local communities

More than 250,000 small business owners are planning to close their firms this year unless they get more help from the government.

The Federation of Small Businesses, which revealed the figure, also says close to a quarter (23%) of small firms have cut staff over the last quarter.

More than half (58%) are forecasting lower profitability for the coming quarter.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “The development of business support measures has not kept pace with intensifying restrictions. As a result, we risk losing hundreds of thousands of great, ultimately viable small businesses this year, at huge cost to local communities and individual livelihoods.

“A record number say they plan to close over the next 12 months, and they were saying that even before news of the latest lockdown came through.  

“At the outset of the first national lockdown, the UK Government was bold. The support mechanisms put in place weren’t perfect, but they were an exceptionally good starting point. That’s why it’s so disappointing that it’s met this second lockdown with a whimper.  

“There are meaningful lifelines for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which are very welcome as far as they go. But this Government needs to realise that the small business community is much bigger than these three sectors. 

“Company directors, the newly self-employed, those in supply chains, and those without commercial premises are still being left out in the cold.”

Business activity

Regional business activity showed a mixed picture in December, with Scotland remaining among the weakest performers along with Northern Ireland and the south west. There was solid growth in the West Midlands and Yorkshire & Humber.

The NatWest (RBS) regional purchasing managers index showed that for the first time since last February, employment rose in some areas, albeit marginally.

Scotland also recorded the steepest overall rate of decline for new work. The best-performing areas for new work were Yorkshire & Humber and Wales.

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