Autumn Statement: Chancellor, please read our wishlists
As George Osborne polishes his Autumn Statement, Mark Leftly surveys smaller firms
Big business hasn't been shy from issuing its list of demands for Wednesday's rather misleadingly entitled Autumn Statement. For example, Ian Cheshire, the boss of B&Q-owner Kingfisher, used the group's quarterly results last week to call for measures to support first-time buyers, while Sainsbury's chief executive has demanded that the Chancellor introduce a 12-month national insurance holiday.
Of course, these are self-serving measures. More home purchases, particularly at the lower end of the market, will see people queuing up at B&Q for shelving and bathroom accessories; an NI window would mean Sainsbury's could reduce its labour costs.
However, that doesn't mean that their interests are not aligned with the nation's, as the moves would also help get the housing market going and provide a boost to employment. Whether or not these are good ideas, what is noticeable is the amount of press coverage they attracted. And column inches go a long way to turning the heads of those in power.
But what of the smaller companies? They might not dominate the FTSE but, taken as a whole, they are the bedrock of the UK, accounting for just shy of 60 per cent of private-sector employment.
They don't attract the coverage of a Cheshire or King, but George Osborne must surely listen to the needs of small business leaders if he is to pull the country out of the economic mire.
Here, we've canvassed a few of those unheard voices working hard to grow their businesses in these turbulent times.
Rob Wing, director of flatfish-to-shellfish business 'Wing of St Mawes'
"We employ 25 people and I have been catching Dover sole, hake and monkfish for 30 years. Small businesses are really facing huge economic challenges and I hope the Government will earnestly seek our support though these increasingly hard times. They could make access to funds easier, make changing staff easier, work towards capping the unified business rate. I'd like to see a push on Common Fisheries Policy reform. Everyone wants sustainable fishing, but the industry faces huge challenges on quotas which will soon reach the point where we're just having to discard fish"
Neil Smith, managing director of rail-to-nursing recruitment firm, Kinetic
"My company mainly provides temporary staff to manufacturing and engineering companies. We put out about 1,000 people a week and have been around the North-west for 30 years. We're always looking to Government to introduce measures that don't hinder a flexible workforce, so we'd certainly welcome something around loosening up the rules on immigration for areas where we've got a skills gap. On bigger issues, I would kill employers' national insurance payments and readjust corporation tax accordingly, as that is a tax on jobs and it should be on profit. However, I don't expect to see that in my lifetime"
Rob Theakston, managing director, the Black Sheep Brewery
"The single biggest problem for the brewing industry is the duty escalator that puts the price of beer 2 per cent above inflation. We would like that to be overturned on Wednesday. We are a £20m turnover business, paying £8.3m in duty. So with VAT and PAYE half our turnover goes to government before we can start thinking about making a profit"
Graham Tyers, managing director, Newson Gale, manufacturer of equipment for chemicals companies
"We're a niche manufacturer with just under 40 employees, almost 80 per cent of our production is exported. If we believe that the future of manufacturing is small businesses with innovative ideas, then the Chancellor needs measures to encourage us. Financial incentives would be good, particularly tax, to make sure we make things in the UK, plus incentives to employ young people in technical positions. Also, increasing UK brand presence in emerging markets is important, as sometimes the services we can tap into are scant"
Julie Deane, founder of leather satchel maker The Cambridge Satchel Company
"I started this business four years ago with £600 and now we're selling 900 handmade bags every day, turning over £1m every month. We built that without any borrowing or investors, we didn't spend any money we didn't have. With that mindset, I absolutely support a continued deficit reduction scheme, the Chancellor certainly can't soften his stance on that. We're currently looking for a factory that's three times bigger than our one in Leicestershire and I think there should be some grants to help UK manufacturing. A lot of grants at the moment are very difficult and so slow to apply for"
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