From the top · 13 October 2016

Number of private UK businesses reaches all-time high

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Margot James: ““The government wants enterprise to thrive”

The amount of private sector businesses operating in Britain has reached a record high, with small firms accounting for the vast majority in every main UK industry sector.

New statistics from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have revealed that private UK businesses now total 5.5m, as the nation’s overall business population has grown significantly in the last six years.

The government’s report, Business Population Estimates, found that at the beginning of 2016, the UK had one million more small firms, 4,000 more medium-sized companies and 900 more large businesses, compared with 2010.

The total number of businesses has therefore increased by 23 per cent in the intervening years since 2010.

Small business minister Margot James welcomed the acknowledgment of smaller UK companies in the government’s findings.

She said in a statement: “There are a million more small businesses now and it’s important to recognise the great contribution they make to local communities and the national economy”.

To coincide with the report, James announced a new consultation, open to responses from businesses of all sizes, that will re-examine how the small business commissioner will operate. “The consultation will look at how the commissioner will operate and handle complaints,” added James.

Originally announced in July 2015, the government’s pledge to appoint a small business commissioner remains unfulfilled, and the position, which will be dedicated to dealing with how small UK businesses deal with larger ones, is still vacant.

The initiative was met with a mixed response when first introduced, and debate since has centred around how much power the commissioner would have to shape policy, with little progress having been made so far.

The new consultation is the first indication the new-look government under Theresa May remains supportive of the initiative and intends to appoint a small business commissioner in future.

It will seek proposals from business leaders about which type of small firms can expect support from commissioner office services, criteria for making complaints to the commissioner, how the office will determine and recommend action for complaints, and whether reports and recommendations should be published.

James went on to say: “The government wants enterprise to thrive. The small business commissioner will be a strong representative for small firms across the country.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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