If George Osborne does one thing in his Budget speech it should be to announce that he will look at setting up a Small Business Administration (SBA) in the UK. Modelled on the SBA in the US, the UK version should champion small firms at the heart of Government and give a clear small business voice through a cabinet level minister.
Successive government administrations have said they support the UK’s army of small businesses, yet none has given the sector the real clout that they need. Most Government departments make small business policy, yet none really understand the effect that constant change can have on a small firm.
We believe that for true and meaningful change to be achieved and a small business attitude to be truly ingrained in Whitehall, that there needs to be a dedicated authority which ‘thinks small first’. With Government commitments to deregulation, procurement and growing the number of businesses that export, the SBA could prove to be the catalyst to achieving these aspirations.
We have called on the Government to look towards the US, which has had a Small Business Administration for nearly 60 years. With a headquarters in Washington DC, a cabinet ranked minister and 900 development centres across the country, its programmes have grown small businesses into household names – Nike, Staples, Apple and Ben & Jerry’s are some to name a few.
As in the US, the UK SBA’s role would be to aid, counsel and protect the interests of small business concerns. It would provide a single focus for small business issues as well as challenging other Government departments where policies could adversely impact small firms. It would focus on key challenges for start-ups, grow enterprise and promote better inter-department collaboration.
In just the last few days, the Breedon Review, a Government Taskforce looking at alternatives to non-bank finance, has suggested that a single government administration to house all the Government’s finance initiatives should be formed. This could just be the start of an SBA in the UK.
We know there is no room in the Budget for big tax giveaways, and we don’t want to see micro-measures which have very little impact. But, small firms need to see actions that match the rhetoric of governments on how important they are – especially as the Government needs more businesses to start to create growth and jobs. The US is known as one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. So if we are to match that, we need an SBA that is backed by political will and built for the long term.