THIS week the Federation of Small Businesses published its latest ‘Small Index’ – a quarterly survey of almost 1,500 small businesses which looks at a range of economic indicators.

They include: small business confidence; employment and wages; exports; productivity; spare capacity; finance; and investment.

It shows that almost a quarter of small firms expect performance to be “much worse” over the next three months with hiring activity, profits and exports all hitting an all-time low over the last quarter. However around one in ten small businesses expect the opposite, showing that small business expectations of future performance are increasingly polarised.

Other findings show that the share of small firms that have reduced headcounts over the last three months is at an all-time high (23 per cent), while the share doing the opposite is at an all-time low (four per cent). A record-high three quarters (75 per cent) of smaller businesses report that profits fell in Q2 of this year, up 33 percentage points compared to Q2 2019. The vast majority (82 per cent) say they are operating below capacity.

These findings throw a light on the mixed outlook from our small business owners. Of course many have benefited from the Government’s emergency support measures.

On a really positive note for Worcestershire, Government figures show that five of the six top-performing councils – in terms of getting payments out to businesses – are from this county. This type of efficient support needs to continue if small businesses are to emerge intact from the coronavirus crisis.

In particular, we need support for those who have so far been left out, not least company directors and the newly self-employed. Additional help for those who are being forced to stay closed while others reopen is also a must.

Without doubt there are choppy economic waters ahead. However, with the right lifelines in place, Worcestershire’s small businesses stand the best chance of staying afloat.