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Regional small business confidence stalls again - FSB

The Business Magazine article image for: Regional small business confidence stalls again - FSB
Craig Carey-Clinch
8 August 2023
Craig Carey-Clinch

Hopes that small business confidence levels in the South West were bouncing back have been dashed in the latest quarterly survey of local business positivity from the FSB.

The findings of the Federation of Small Businesses’ first quarterly confidence report in the spring were that business confidence had shown a sudden upsurge, but the latest results have shown that the momentum was short-lived.

The new figures – taken after FSB members and guests took part in the survey in the first week of July – reveal that confidence has dipped again slightly and the overall picture is still one that reflects the concerns that the economic situation remains very difficult for many small business owners and the self-employed.

Read more: Federation of Small Businesses' small business confidence report paints mixed picture in South West

Despite the headline fall in confidence – mainly cited by SMEs as because of the general economic situation, sluggish consumer demand and rising costs - there were still some positive signs that small businesses do feel the situation is going to approve.

Nearly half of the SMEs surveyed in the South West said that their growth aspirations in the next 12 months were to grow ‘rapidly or moderately’ – a steep increase in the last quarter – and nearly one in five planned to increase headcount in the coming months.

FSB regional policy chair Craig Carey-Clinch (pictured) said that although the headline figures were disappointing these signs are something to build on.

“The reality is that business confidence – like the economy that influences it – is just in a totally uncertain place. All we can hope is that some of the positive signs we are seeing can be built on and increasing confidence can start to become the norm again rather than the exception.

“We at FSB will continue to work hard with leading policy makers to stress that small businesses can and will do their bit to try and get things moving forward again but they can’t do it alone. Pro-small business policies are essential to get SME confidence firmly back on track.”

The regional figures were released as part of the overall national FSB confidence report for the quarter which saw a more dramatic fall in confidence than has been seen in the South West.

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Martin McTague, FSB’s national chair, said he too was trying to focus on the positives in the report:
“Although the upturn in small firms’ confidence from the first quarter didn’t carry over into the second quarter of the year, the message from our research is that small firms’ confidence in the future is looking rosier,” he said.

“Given the right conditions for growth, small firms have the potential to power a groundswell of economic activity. With the domestic economy the biggest perceived barrier to growth, however, they are in something of a catch-22 situation.”

The FSB South West report can be downloaded at


Peter Davison is deputy editor of The Business Magazine. He has spent his life in journalism – doing work experience in newsrooms in and around Bristol while still at school, and landing his first job on a local newspaper aged 19. By 28 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country.

An early advocate of online news, he spent the first years of the 2000s telling his bosses that the internet posed both the biggest opportunity and greatest threat to the newspaper industry and the art of journalism. He was right on both counts.

Since 2006 he has enjoyed a career as a freelance journalist. He lives in rural Wiltshire with one wife, two children, and three cats.

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