Small businesses make big plans

One in five small businesses plan to expand their workforce in 2003, says Abbey National.

The recruitment plans are good news for high street mortgage brokers, who are sharing the positive mood among small and medium-sized companies.

An Abbey National survey finds some 51% of the country&#39s SMEs intend to maintain staff levels in 2003. A further quarter of firms are hedging their bets by pegging recruitment plans to their business performance over the next year.

In fact, Abbey National business found that only 4% of all small business owners say they will cut staff numbers next year. Although confidence is lower in some industries, notably the already depressed manufacturing sector, the overall picture is similar across the country.

Gary Hockey-Morley, director of Abbey National business, says: “These are the firms that form the foundations for British business and set the pulse for the economy. Recruitment plans are a good indicator of business confidence and companies are sending out a very positive message about their hopes for growth in 2003.”

Research by Abbey National business found that on average the UK&#39s SMEs have to recruit new staff six times a year, paying out an average of £764 in recruitment fees and advertising costs each time. However, it is not easy to find the right staff.

Problems that businesses face include a lack of suitable staff – an issue for 50% of companies. 10% of companies report a poor attitude from jobseekers, while 8% of respondents say wage expectations are too high.