Research carried out by a leading UK newspaper has found that SMEs are losing confidence in the UK government. The Daily Telegraph tracked twitter posts from 25k small businesses and companies. It found that tweets were becoming increasingly pessimistic. Of 24,000 tweets posted over a four-week period, 12% were positive and 9% were negative. The rest were ‘neutral’.
At first glance, the results were positive, as the number of positive tweets was higher than the negative ones. However, researchers discovered when they took neutral tweets out of the mix, the difference between positive and negative tweets was less than 15%. This is a strong indication that confidence in government policies is falling.
Negative Sentiments About Brexit
Many of the negative tweets referenced news that the government expects a significant Brexit dividend to pay for planned NHS funding. It’s clear that a lot of SMEs don’t believe this will happen or that the supposed ‘dividend’ will materialize. Such announcements are often regarded as ‘spin’, which casts them in a negative light. Critics of the government’s Brexit strategy point to the rise in negative sentiment online from the UK’s SMEs points to a belief by many that Theresa May is not in control of Brexit negotiations.
Negative sentiments were further compounded by news that Airbus planned to withdraw its investment in the UK if the government failed to reach a deal with EU officials in Brussels. This triggered 14% of all fed-up tweets from business Twitter users. Other tweeters referenced Boris Johnson’s dismissal of small business concerns, which sparked fears that the government is not paying enough attention to SMEs, many of whom voted for the Conservatives in the last general election.
Clouds of Uncertainty
There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Brexit. The government has failed to secure a deal and much remains on the table. The financial services industry is hoping for a positive result from Brexit negotiations, but nothing is guaranteed. Companies providing financial services may lose their passporting rights post-Brexit. However, leading financial services providers are hoping that officials are able to reach a bespoke agreement that benefits businesses in the UK and the EU.
The Business Basics Fund
Despite the rising tide of criticism, it seems the UK government is not deaf to the concerns being voiced by small businesses. In a speech to the CBI in June, the Small Business Minister announced that the government is creating a £8 million Business Basics fund to help small businesses. This is designed to help SMEs adopt new technologies and management techniques.
CBI research indicates that the UK economy could receive a significant boost to the tune of £100 billion if SMEs embrace modern technology. This includes cloud computing, mobile technology, e-finance, and other support services. Whilst UK businesses are not too far behind in their take-up of technology, they are still lagging behind some countries, in particular, Denmark.
The Business Basics fund is being touted as the perfect vehicle to help small businesses get to grips with modern technology.