Debt reduction plans backed by three quarters of small firms, survey finds
When asked what the new Government’s immediate priorities should be, 77% of respondents to the Forum’s latest Referendum ballot listed repayment of the national debt.
The issue emerged as the single most prominent concern among SMEs polled by the Forum – apparently endorsing the new coalition Government’s strong emphasis on rapid deficit reduction.
Stronger regulation of utility companies and banks was the next most popular priority listed by small business owners, finding favour with 62% of those surveyed. This was closely followed by simplification of the tax system, on 61%.
Commenting on the findings, the Forum’s research manager Thomas Parry said: “The one clear and consistent message to come out of this survey is that business owners want to see the deficit dealt with, and dealt with fast.
“Many small businesses will be hit by tax rises and spending cuts, just like everyone else. However, I think our members take the view that the economy can’t continue servicing such a dangerous level of debt and it needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later, for the whole country’s sake.”
The Forum’s latest Referendum ballot, which was completed by members just before the General Election, also appears to indicate that some business owners will be happy with the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.
The Conservative Party was easily the most popular party among the small firms surveyed. The Tories found favour with 61% of respondents – way above the 36% share of the vote that the party won among the general electorate.
However, perhaps surprisingly, the Lib Dems were the third most popular party among small business owners – and twice as popular as Labour. When asked which party best understood the needs of their businesses, only around 2.9% of Forum members said Labour, compared to 5.5% for the Lib Dems.
The Liberals also appear to be more agreeable to small firms than that Scottish and Welsh nationalists – SNP and Plaid Cymru attracted the backing of just 2% of Forum members in the two countries.
Mr Parry commented: “The Lib Dems aren’t traditionally thought of as being the party of small businesses, but perhaps the popularity of stronger regulation of perceived monopolies among Forum members partly explains why they emerged as the third most popular party in this survey.
“Since the global financial crisis, the Lib Dems have been very vocal about the need for tighter controls on the banks, so perhaps this message has won them some support among SMEs.”
However, the Lib Dems attracted significantly less support than UKIP, which emerged as the second most popular political party among Forum members. The anti-EU group found favour with 7.4% of small businesses polled, despite managing only a 3% share of votes overall in the election.
In addition, almost a quarter (around 23%) of Referendum respondents said they feel that absolutely none of the political parties understand their business and its needs, reflecting a considerable amount of disillusionment.
Referendum 192 also found that small business owners appear to have been largely unaffected by the election itself and its uncertain aftermath.When asked ‘What impact do you feel electioneering has had on your business?’, 63% replied with ‘no impact’.
Additionally, reducing local taxation was the most popular option for Forum members when asked ‘Where could support to your business be improved locally?’ A solid 57% supported such measures.
This was followed by parking and transport issues, which was selected by 41% of respondents, and crime prevention, on 30%