This is an important budget for the chancellor. Much research - including our own - has shown that confidence has begun to increase and businesses are thinking about taking on staff. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) 'Voice of Small Business' Index, which garnered the views of some 3,000 FSB members, showed confidence return to positive territory: nearly a third (27.4%) of small firms want to increase their investment plans, and over a half are aiming to grow in the next year.
The budget must do all it can to underpin this emerging confidence. We have called for the government to look at creating a Small Business Administration, similar to the very successful administration in the US. With so many departments creating small business policy, it would work to champion the sector at the heart of government and have a cabinet level minister.
But we know that will take time and so we want to see action that will help small firms now. We know that a small number of businesses want to take on staff and they must be given the tools to do so. We don't want to see another barrage of micro measures, but intervention that has a long lasting impact. For example - the very smallest of firms would benefit from the government accepting the Office for Tax Simplification's recommendations to simplify the tax system.
The chancellor has promised to announce his credit easing scheme before the budget too which should help some firms. But, more needs to be done to explore what alternatives to bank finance are available. One in five businesses says that finance is hard to access and 60 per cent have said it's unaffordable.
If the government wants the private sector to lead the recovery, it needs a base from which to do that. Having a champion at the heart of government would be a great start.