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The Forum of Private Business has welcomed the Government’s review of how to help businesses embrace new technology and latest management techniques to push up wages and profits, but wonders if it is looking in the wrong place to solve the productivity problem. It's not clear either where it got the £100 billion untapped benefit figure from.
The issues for the small business sector are and have been very clear for some time with ever tighter margins, late payment, high rent and long term leases, high business rates, poor internet access, a complicated and unfair tax system and some truly appalling behaviour from big business as highlighted in the Carillion review. Additional regulatory burdens including GDPR and Auto Enrolment have added to the challenges.
The focus of the governments review seems to suggest streamlined systems and further cost cutting will solve the problem. While it will undoubtedly help, it is part of a far bigger picture that the government seems to struggle to grasp and deal with.
Ian Cass, Managing Director of the Forum of Private Business, said: “It’s all very well saying we need to be encouraging more businesses to adopt the best tried and tested technologies available – such as cloud computing, mobile technology and e-purchasing, but all these come at a cost in terms of both time and money, at a time when businesses have tight margins, poor cash flow and are quite rightly being careful on investing and taking on debt, which after 2008 is a very sensible approach. If the aim of the review is to help government better understand the factors affecting the productivity of UK business in a bid to unlock £100 billion of untapped benefit to our economy, then the Forum will certainly submit evidence to the review.
"A more immediate, and potentially more practical, piece of work would be for Greg Clark to host a group of small business owners and hear from them directly the real issues that, were they addressed, would free up businesses to be more productive. Through the Forum’s ‘Get Britain Trading' initiative, the Forum would be pleased to facilitate this."
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