“We'll be looking to all the political parties to spell out what they will do to encourage job creation, investment and reward entrepreneurs in the next Parliament," reflects Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman John Allan. “Record numbers of people are starting their own businesses so their voices have to be heard,” adds Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones, citing, “Since 2008, 90 per cent of job creation has come from small and medium-sized firms.” Given the role these firms play within the UK economy, Aldermore turned to the SME community on Twitter to explore which issues British small businesses most want to see addressed during the conferences. Late payments Unsurprisingly, late payments are a priority for a large number of SME organisations, with research from Bacs Payment Schemes suggesting British SMEs are owed £39.4 billion in overdue debt. Business rates More than 100 of Britain’s largest businesses have signed a petition calling for an overhaul of Britain’s business rates system, but the tax burden can be equally challenging for smaller businesses to shoulder. In fact, even John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, has admitted: “There is no question that the business rates system is broken. This is a tax that hits companies of all sizes long before they make a profit, and acts as a drag on business growth and investment.” Access to funding Despite major government initiatives including the Funding for Lending Scheme, bank lending to small businesses has continued to decline as the recovery takes hold, with John Longworth commenting: “Much more needs to be done to fill major gaps in the provision of SME finance in the UK.” Skills While growth is on the agenda for many British SMEs, the issues of skills shortages is a major concern for many business owners. Ernst and Young (EY) finds 77 per cent of entrepreneurs are struggling to attract the right talent to their business.Rebalancing the economy In the wake of the recession, businesses are keen to redress the balance in an economy seen as too London-centric and overly- reliant on the service sector. An overwhelming 85 per cent of respondents in a recent YouGov and EEF poll believe it is essential for the next government to promote a stronger manufacturing base for the country, with EEF Chief Executive Terry Scuoler commenting: "There is no room for complacency. While the UK is on the right path, we still have a long way to go.” The messages below are tweets from some members of the Bank's Twitter community, detailing the topics they hope to see covered during this year's conference season. @AldermoreBank Need to see more being done to tackle the scourge of late payment and reform of business rates system wouldn't go amiss. — Simon Hanson (@FSBnortheast) September 15, 2014 Small businesses gear up to demand action on #businessrates as annual party conference season begins Read more: http://t.co/8ID1aEsoxF — RatesRecovery (@RatesRecovery) September 8, 2014 @AldermoreBank business rates reform... for retailers... And some legislation that requires companies pay within reasonable time for all — Indie Retail UK (@IndieRetailUK) September 16, 2014 @AldermoreBank Business rates, late payments, access to funding, skills shortage (esp. digital, construction), infrastructure — Real Business (@Real_Business) September 16, 2014 Giving biz a greater say in local decision making will boost our cities, towns and counties http://t.co/kSKR0rUa5O pic.twitter.com/P0oC0XZ7Cx — BCC (@britishchambers) September 8, 2014 Aldermore will be reporting on all three of the major political conferences over the next month, and sincerely hopes to see each of these significant small business challenges addressed. Follow the Bank on Twitter for live updates from the events. The content published on this website is intended to provide information only. The reader should seek advice from experts on the subject matter and independently verify the accuracy and relevance of any information provided here before relying upon it or using it for any reason. You can view our terms and conditions here.