A CALL has gone out for the government to recognise the “huge contribution” of Hampshire’s small businesses after research showed confidence fell again at the end of last year.

The FSB Small Business Index (SBI) scored confidence among small firms at minus 37 per cent in the final quarter of 2020, down from minus 32 per cent the previous quarter.

More than a fifth of the region’s small businesses had cut staff in the quarter and 59 per cent had seen profits fall. Nearly a quarter aspired to downsize, close or sell their business, compared with only 10 per cent in the same quarter of 2019.

However, small business confidence was still higher than in the rest of the country, which was a full 10 points lower at minus 37 per cent.

Nicola Bailey, FSB development manager for Hampshire and Isle of Wight, said: “The Small Business Index (SBI) shows how the ongoing impact of Covid-19 is taking its toll on our small businesses .

“Government must recognise the huge contribution that Hampshire and Isle of Wight small businesses make to the UK economy and concentrate on policies that will shore up business confidence in the short term.

“Access to finance and debt accumulation are significant concerns and so government must put in place a bold business support infrastructure as many cannot wait for a March budget,” she added.

The federation has issued a call to government for:

  • Streamlining and quicker payment of Small Business Cash Grant
  • A Directors' Income Support Scheme for directors of limited companies, set at 80 per cent of three months’ average profits, paid out in a single instalment capped at £7,500.
  • Extension of the Self-Employed income Support Scheme to cover 300,000 newer self-employed people who were left out of previous rounds
  • A delay to the first repayments of Bounce Back Loans, and a provision for student loans repayments to be deferred until a company is profitable
  • Extending the business rates relief scheme for businesses forced to close by Covid rules
  • Targeted support for night-time economy businesses such as nightclubs.