The Small Business Economic Forum

The Small Business Economic Forum, announced by Vince Cable and Mark Prisk, Ministers respectively in the new coalition government, got together on 18 October 2010 for its inaugural meeting.

This forum had been established by the government as a way of really trying to get to the bottom of the problems facing small businesses.

Being intrigued by such a forum and wondering who were the people on the forum, I managed to obtain said information via a Freedom of Information request.

According to the information I have received, in a reply from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills dated 24 November, the forum members comprise 14 individuals and then there are a number of invitees totalling 10 others.  Additionally, there were apologies from 4 further individuals.

The good news is that the forum has amongst its membership and invited guests, representatives of some of the major business organisations in the UK.  These include various Chambers of Commerce, the CBI, the Federation of Small Business, the Forum of Private Business, most of the banks, the Institute of Directors, the ICAEW etc etc.

The bad news is that most of them wouldn’t know a small business if it hit them in the face with a wet fish.

For years, I have been explaining as clearly and loudly as possible, to whomever would listen, that it’s about time that government, and other bodies, really listened and tried to understand what constitutes a small business.

Having the representative of the  Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the representative from the Confederation of British Industry discuss the problems of small business is like asking me and one of my mates to review latest developments in brain surgery.  Most of the people who were at that first meeting, have no experience of what is really happening at ground level to the hundred of thousands of small one-man band businesses.  They constitute the bulk of small businesses in the UK.  Never mind the small businesses with say between 10 and 49 employees, they are already well on their way.  No one is taking account of the problems faced by “micro entities” and they were completely unrepresented at that meeting.

This government has made a big thing out of what it is trying to do for small business.  At the moment, its all talk.  The Government has published a number of different documents espousing noble objectives in connection with the releasing of finance; the lifting of red tape, but so far,  absolutely no action of any note, and certainly no attention to the micro entity.

Of course, it would be great to be able to know what the forum discussed, but my request to see the minutes was knocked back.

“Minutes of the proceedings have been produced, but there are no plans to publish them.  Any initiatives resulting from the meetings will be made public”.

 I have requested an internal review as I find this completely unacceptable that the minutes of a forum designed to help small business shouldn’t be made available.  I want to know what was discussed at that meeting.