Confidence is low, warns business chief

The head of a major network for small businesses has warned that independent firms are continuing to struggle because banks are refusing to give them affordable credit.

Phil Orford, chief executive of lobbying group the Forum of Private Business, which represents thousands of small companies, also said independent traders risk being ‘disenfranchised’ by politicians looking for short-term fixes.

In the campaign group’s annual round-up, Mr Orford said that confidence was low in the business world as 2012 drew to a close.

He said: “For too long now, the economy has struggled due to a lack of affordable credit being available to businesses and consumers.”

On the big banks, he added: “They are institutionally risk-averse, anti-competitive and fail to grasp the scale of the damage they have done, and continue to do.

“More radical action must be taken to force change now, rather than in years to come.”

He also criticised ‘PR and spin’ in government policy on business, and accused politicians of a ‘blatant focus’ on larger firms.

“Small business owners are becoming disenfranchised by politicians,” he said.

“PR and spin have become the order of the day with announcements made months ahead of implementation, commitments which remain undelivered and a blatant focus on large businesses, without there being adequate mechanisms for holding such businesses to account on tax, late payment and social responsibility.”

Mr Orford added that new business regulations, such as the requirement that payroll information be reported monthly rather than once a year, were creating a ‘huge burden’ for small firms.

“Despite government rhetoric to reduce the burden of red tape on businesses, 2013 sees some significant amendments to legislation which business owners need plan for immediately,” he said.

“And with significant amendments to employment legislation, employers need to be aware of how these changes will affect how they manage staff.”

Mr Orford warned that the economic situation for small business in 2013 remains uncertain.

“With talk of an unprecendented ‘triple dip’ recession, it is no wonder that confidence remains low, with businesses hoarding cash and investment intentions distictly muted.

“Despite this, many small business owners owners possess the courage and creativity to progress despite adverse trading conditions.”