The chairman of the Small Firms Association, Ian Martin, said 2010 was probably 'the most scrutinised and debated economic year' in the history of the Irish state.
Speaking in a statement released today Mr Martin added that despite the economic environment, the SFA’s business sentiment survey shows that confidence has increased throughout the year amongst members.
While recognising the financial constraints that the Government is operating under, Mr Martin also said it was essential that they continued to focus on where there will be a direct return on investment and that is through supporting small businesses in retaining jobs.
“We need to ensure that the competitive environment is urgently created to allow small Irish firms compete, through tackling Government controlled costs such as electricity & other energy costs, local authority charges, regulatory burden and waste/water charges. While the four year plan has provided a commitment to addressing the cost of doing business, we have yet to see any focused proposals from Government in this regard.”
Mr Martin stated that motivating staff in 2011 will be a challenge for many firms, “staff over the last 2 years have shown great commitment and worked with management in reviewing wage rates and reducing working hours, with the tax band and credit changes in Budget 2011 most employees take home pay will be reduced, so employees will be working for less – this will undoubtedly impact on staff morale and it will be a challenge for employers to motivate staff as a result.”
He added that in the year ahead the key concerns for firms will be access to finance, local authority rates and support for entrepreneurs.
Regarding access to credit, Martin commented that while further investment was being made in the banking system the Government had again ignored the issue of credit for small firms.
“Budget 2011 ignored the fact that many viable small businesses lack two key ingredients to access financial support from the banking system: they lack collateral because of the property bubble collapse and associated high negative equity and they lack a good track record over the past two to three years because of the worldwide economic recession and loss of consumer confidence and spending at home”.