Earlier this week, the Federation of Small Businesses published the latest edition of its quarterly Small Business Index.

The index is compiled from the results of a national survey of our members and provides an up to date snapshot of small business challenges, opportunities and sentiment. These most recent findings make for uncomfortable reading.

The index is in negative territory for fourth straight quarter: a first in its near 10-year history. Concerns about labour costs have soared, while growth aspirations have dropped to a record-low. Optimism has taken a particularly hard hit among small construction, manufacturing and retail firms.

The detailed findings include: Seven in ten small firms do not expect their performance to improve over the coming three months and four in ten (41 per cent) expect it to worsen; Seven in ten also say the cost of running their business is increasing; and less than half (45 per cent) of small business owners expect to grow their firms over the coming 12 months.

What’s more, four in ten (42 per cent) small firms say profits are down this quarter, and more than a third (34 per cent) of exporters say international sales have dropped-off. Both figures are at a record-high.

While unwelcome, these findings are hardly surprising. After all, small business owners are increasingly being hit on all sides... by fresh costs, onerous reporting requirements, political uncertainty, and the re-emerging threat of a cliff-edge no-deal Brexit in just 20 weeks’ time.

With Westminster now potentially distracted again – his time by the race to find a new Prime Minister – politicians and policymakers need to up their game.

We can’t hope to end this confidence losing streak until they make it easier for small firms to compete.

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