News in brief: employment figures; local business; alternative finance

We have scoured the web and the daily papers to bring together all the SME-related stories of interest to your business in our brand-new daily news round-up.


ONS figures show employment continues to grow

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show a fall in unemployment has more than outstripped the recent rises, leaving unemployment at its lowest level since mid-2008. Employment continues to grow, with the employment rate now at its highest since records began in 1971 and wages have continued to grow strongly in real terms.

Commenting on the figures, CEO of Central Working and serial entrepreneur James Layfield said: "Small businesses are delivering almost half of all private sector employment opportunities, driving optimism and injecting creativity and innovation into the UK economy. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of this community’s contribution, as their impact on job and wealth creation cannot be underestimated. We must continue to support small businesses wherever possible, ensuring they have access to the advice, financing and tools they need to thrive.”


Alternative finance market to reach £5bn milestone

New analysis from Fleximize, an alternative SME lender, has found the UK alternative finance market could reach the £5 billion figure by November this year. By the end of August 2015, the sector had lent around £4.3 billion, and Fleximize estimates that the sector is lending on average around £211.5 million a month this year.

Fleximize says that there are two key reasons for growth in alternative finance in the UK. The first is that mainstream banks are lending less overall, on average 3.2% lower; the second reason for the growth in alternative lending in general is that there are now more than 100 companies in the sector.


UK shoppers build relationships with local stores

A high street survey from AXA Business Insurance found that more than 60% of the nation’s shoppers have long-standing relationships with their local stores. A quarter of customers said they like knowing their neighbourhood venders by name and a fifth enjoy being able to order 'the usual' when shopping locally.

Almost three quarters of people feel that local shops give an area more character and 17% believe that they are ‘prettier’ on the high street. More than half of shoppers feel that by supporting their local retailers they are supporting the whole community and 51% say they’d rather hand over cash to a local business than a big brand.


SMEs in Scotland are the most concerned about a potential Brexit

A new study of 1,000 British SMEs by Tungsten Corporation has revealed sharp regional divisions among business leaders over the upcoming EU referendum. Following last year’s Scottish independence referendum, 64% of SME’s in Scotland say they are “concerned” about political and economic instability around the EU vote, which includes 27% indicating they are “very concerned”. This contrasts sharply with the UK national average of 49%. In the South West only 45% had concerns, while in the East of England just 42% of SMEs were worried about disruption.

Tungsten CEO Richard Hurwitz said: “SMEs clearly want to be included in the ongoing discussion about EU membership. They are an important constituent whose interests’ the government should consider. This is a decision that will affect us all and it’s imperative that SMEs have the necessary information to make a well-informed and considered choice.”


Londoners are both highest paid and poorest in the country

UK professionals working in the city of London are officially the poorest workers in Britain, despite having the highest average salary in the UK. According to job site CV-Library, the average annual salary in London is £36,905— 16.6% greater than the national average of £31,625 per year— but premium costs in the capital drastically outweigh the higher-than-average salaries, meaning Londoners have the least disposable income in the country.

Founder and MD of CV-Library Lee Biggins elaborated: “Living premiums mean that for most workers in the capital the idea of getting on the property ladder is a pipe dream, despite working hard. The fact that Londoners struggle to afford the bare essentials is worrying and may well affect the number of professionals that choose to work in the city; other cities are starting to appear as much more appealing prospects for UK workers.”