By Daniel Hunter

Almost half of Britain’s small business owners (45%) remain optimistic about the country’s economic fortunes, but three in four say their future success risks being derailed by red tape, according to new research out today (Tuesday) from energy company E.ON.

The survey of 750 small business decision makers revealed that despite ongoing economic difficulties, the biggest boost to business prospects would come from reduced bureaucracy and simpler tax systems rather than improved access to finance or better interest rates, with SMEs calling on the Government to urgently address these issues.

The results also show owners and managers want energy companies to make their day-to-day lives more straightforward. A quarter of businesses (24%) want greater simplicity of energy tariffs, requiring providers to offer clearer information about bills and contract terms.

“Small businesses are the engine of Britain’s economy and their message is clear: in these tough times they need straight-talking and fair play, whether from government or suppliers, to keep their businesses moving and improving," Anthony Ainsworth of E.ON said.

“It is telling that red tape and bureaucratic complexity has a higher impact than poor lending conditions. I want our customers to feel that we are easy to do business with, that we have listened to their feedback and introduced measures to increase the fairness and transparency of how we work with them.”

The significance of energy to SMEs was highlighted in the research, with 40% citing its supply as the most important factor for business continuity, ahead of staff sickness/absence (34%), delivery issues (39%) and problems with premises (30%). The key to successful supplier/customer relationships is trust (26%), which ranks higher than cost (22%) and security (12%), and the majority of businesses are keen to develop two-way partnerships with their suppliers.

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