Small business leaders: We'll do well and we're more confident in the UK... but the government is letting us down

Oliver Gill
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Chancellor George Osborne Hits The Campaign Trail In The West Midlands
Margot James (right) is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility (Source: Getty)

Britain's small businesses are increasingly confident about the UK's economic prospects, but are concerned the government is neglecting the importance of private enterprise, according to research released today.

Accountancy firm Smith & Williamson revealed the results of its quarterly Enterprise Index, which showed the owners of small and medium-sized enterprises were five points more optimistic that Britain's economy would improve in the next 12 months.

It's all about me

When questioned about the prospects of their own businesses, more than three-quarters of respondents were confident about growing operations in the year to come.

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"Our respondents, perhaps buoyed by encouraging economic statistics and recent stock market highs, are now looking ahead to 2017 with a cautiously optimistic view," said Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services at Smith & Williamson.

For the third quarter in a row, there was a decline in the proportion of the 1,600 respondents across the UK who believed Theresa May's government is supportive of private enterprise. Rigby said:

The community has taken a number of hits over the past 12 months and is expecting to face even more over the coming year. Reforms of business rates, the apprenticeship levy, the national living wage, auto-enrolment and changes to the way dividends are taxed have all had an adverse financial or emotional impact.

It’s not that all small and medium-sized enterprises regard these changes as negative, but the flow of new initiatives has been relentless. Like buses, they’ve all come at once.

Computer says yes

Returning to their own prospects, more and more business leaders were looking to borrow money in order to invest on internal infrastructure. The survey revealed those with an appetite to borrow jumped seven points to 41 per cent and the plan was to put the money to work in upgrading IT systems and capabilities.

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"Many believe the creation of solid foundations will leave them better able to face any negative headwinds, increasing resilience, efficiency and growth," said Rigby.

“There appears to be recognition that a failure to invest in infrastructure and growth could be just as detrimental as any negative external factors.”

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