The burden of tax and red tape, plus a lack of skilled, motivated youngsters entering the workforce, are the most pressing concerns facing smaller businesses, according to those who took part in the recent Forum of Private Business’s Small Firms’ Summit.
Almost exclusively, participants called for a more “commonsense” approach to the administration and enforcement of legislation, in particular, to simplify the task of filling in the many different risk assessment forms.
Suggested measures to redress the balance included greater financial support and guidance from the government and exempting firms with only a few employees from adhering to some legislation.
Participants believed that young starters, although mostly IT literate, often displayed a lack of practical communications skills, as well as basic literacy and numeracy. Remedies could include extra help from government to support more fruitful work experience placements, develop apprenticeships and in-house training schemes.
The summit also focussed on Gordon Brown’s policies since becoming Prime Minister. Much criticised were the changes to the Capital Gains Tax taper relief system, including replacing the 10% rate with a flat 18% tax, which many felt had ruined their long-term plans. Participants also registered concern that the PM’s new Business Council did not include a small-business representative.
On the subject of health and safety, participants said it was not hard to comply with regulations on a day-to-day basis, but they struggled with the task of completing all of the necessary paperwork. And they said they found it almost impossible to manage maternity and paternity leave.