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Small firms set to invest, Aviva claims

PUBLISHED: 17:52 31 January 2014 | UPDATED: 17:52 31 January 2014

Robert Ledger, head of small business at Aviva.

Robert Ledger, head of small business at Aviva.


Small firms across the east expect to mount strong growth this year despite frustrations with red tape, a study has found.

The findings of Aviva’s SME Pulse survey revealed 48pc of small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMEs) predict a growth surge in the first half of 2014, compared to 9pc in 2012.

But 33pc of SMEs said red tape surrounding tax and accounting was the main growth barrier the government needed to address.

It comes just days after the prime minister promised to slash or amend thousands of rules affecting small businesses, claiming it would save more than £850m a year.

Robert Ledger, head of small business at Aviva, said: “The increased optimism we are seeing is great news for the economy with nearly half of the SMEs surveyed in East England telling us they predict strong or improved growth in 2014. This supports PwC reports that the UK will remain the fastest growing major European economy in 2014.”

According to the bi-annual survey of 500 SMEs, 69pc in the east said trading conditions in 2013 had been as expected, while 24 said conditions have been tougher than initially expected.

And no one said they would consider a return to the workforce as an employee - compared to 25pc in 2012.

“It is also a promising indicator of a return to business confidence to have so many businesses say they still really enjoy what they do,” Mr Ledger added. “Qualities like passion and commitment to run their own business, especially when trading is tough, really shows the strength that SMEs have, and need, to survive.

“Our survey results also suggest SMEs on the whole are interpreting market conditions better with almost two thirds saying trading conditions in 2013 were largely as they expected them to be. Business acumen is really important in judging when to be prudent and when to take opportunities to grow.”

When asked what the government could do to stimulate growth for SMEs, 33pc said it needed to cut red tape for tax and accounting; 30pc wanted a reduction in VAT; 24pc wanted to encourage the banks to lend to businesses; 24pc wanted to cut red tape on employment and HR; 23pc wanted a reduction in corporation tax; 19pc wanted more initiatives benefits smaller and bigger businesses; 15pc red tape slashed around health and safety for small businesses; 11pc wanted mor SMEs to benefit from the employment allowance.

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