By Daniel Hunter

Small businesses believe that a lack of consumer confidence will pose a significant challenge to their business in the coming 12 months, according to the latest findings of a the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) snap poll as it revives its Keep Trade Local campaign.

The continued decline of the high street is putting businesses at risk, with supermarkets and the internet getting stronger. Through its Keep Trade Local campaign, the FSB is encouraging businesses to work together to make their local high street the place to visit, and for people to understand they must use the high street or face losing it for good.

Small businesses are the heart of the local community; they generate wealth, employment and opportunity. But with people working longer hours and the growth of convenience, one-stop-shopping and the internet, these places are at risk. This is especially true as people work longer hours.

Our recent ‘Voice of Small Business' Index for Q1 2013 showed that confidence among retail businesses fell from 1 to -11, meaning businesses went from being neither positive or concerned about their prospects, to being overwhelmingly negative. Other disappointing figures from the survey showed that 47 per cent of retail respondents said their revenue had fallen in the previous three months.

The FSB is calling for local authorities, councils and central government to look at how they can make grassroots economies prosperous once again by working in partnership and helping their independent high street businesses to grow. Following the Budget announcements we now hope that small firms will reconsider taking on staff or an apprentice and create more jobs.
Through its Keep Trade Local campaign the FSB is calling for:

• Business rates to be made fairer and small business rates relief to be made permanent in England as it is in Scotland
• Business rates to be indexed to the CPI inflation measure
• Central and local government to think about the ‘three P's' — planning, parking and procurement as a way to boost and encourage local trade

Launching the campaign to around 700 delegates at FSB National Conference in Leicester, Mike Cherry, National Policy Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

"Once the high street starts to go into decline it can be difficult to revive. But with the right measures from councils and local authorities the tide can be turned.

"Our recent survey on business confidence found that small business owners are still concerned with the issues that previously underpinned Keep Trade Local. The Government clearly understands these issues and the importance of local economies and the high streets within them. The Mary Portas review gave many recommendations which we believe are important to the future prosperity of the high street.

"The horsemeat scandal provided a short-term boost to our high streets, but it's time for a more concerted effort from everybody to keep their local high streets vibrant and alive."

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