UK business 'booming', says SBS

The 'stock' of UK businesses swelled to 4 million in 2003 despite severe economic turbulence throughout the year.

Figures from the Small Business Service (SBS), part of the Department of Trade and Industry, represented the speediest increase in business numbers since data was first collected on the subject in 1995.

Small businesses accounted for 99.8% of the business population and £2.2 billion of the total business turnover.

Overall numbers of small firms have grown consistently in recent years, with 3.7 million in 2001, 3.8 million in 2002 and 4 million in 2003. In the latter year, business creation was going on at the rate of 500 new businesses a day.

Welcoming the news, small business minister Nigel Griffiths said business was "booming".

He added: "I am delighted that the sector is growing as a whole and that an unprecedented number of new businesses have been set up."

The findings suggest that despite increasing levels of red tape and higher taxation - national insurance contributions rose by one percent during the year - entrepreneurs are still determined to make their business work.

Richard Wilson, head of business policy at the Institute of Directors, drew a comparison with businesses starting up in the 1980s, concluding that today's outfits were stronger.

He said: "People have learnt from mistakes made concerning high levels of credit and debt. There is of course remaining levels of debt but now interest rates are much lower."

But Wilson added: "I must admit I would be very surprised if there was another big increase next year. The two forces working against the small business is the burden of taxation and frustrating levels of regulation.

"Anything the government can do to keep taxation low will be good for small businesses. Many employers meet complications when they begin to take on staff in terms of sorting out pay and employment law."



31st August 2004

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