20160321 FSB - Small and medium firms' mood at three-year low

The owners of small and medium-sized firms are less confident than at any time since 2013, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Pensions auto-enrolment and the impending National Living Wage are seen as factors in the dip in confidence.

However, the survey was carried out before the Budget, which was viewed asgood for small companies.

“Small business confidence has clearly faltered, ” said the FSB’s vice-chairman, Sandra Dexter.

“Which is why the welcome small business focus in the Budget is so important,” she added.

“We need a renewed push for growth and productivity, with policymakers delivering a sustained package of support for ambitious small firms,” she added.

The survey found FSB members in all UK regions reported a fall in confidence, but it was most marked in London and the East of England.

Overall, Scotland and Northern Ireland were the least confident regions.

Uncertainty denting confidence

The organisation, which represents about 200,000 firms, points to “uncertainty about the strength of the UK and global economy” as contributing to cooling confidence.

It also highlights the first fall in jobs being created by its members for three years and the weakest performance for their exports since 2012.

However, Ms Dexter acknowledged that budget measures, including changes to business rates which will mean many small firms will not have to pay at all, would help.

“Delivering on tax simplification measures will be vital,” she added, “as will pressing ahead with new investment in much-needed infrastructure.

“Taken together, these measures should help to boost confidence and help small firms to grow and succeed.”

The results of the survey were published ahead of the FSB’s national conference, which is being held in Glasgow.