BIS Sheffield, Brexit and the lack of evidence-based decision-making

Last week the Department of Business Innovation and Skills confirmed that it was closing their Sheffield office to moving the work back to London.  This is a great shame as whenever I have approached the small business research team there I have found them tremendously helpful and they will often take responsibility for an enquiry, getting back to you when they have an answer.

Their latest research from BIS, the small business survey showed that regulation and competition were the biggest issues for small firms followed by late payment and taxation.  Yet regulation and taxation will go up this year and measurements to deal with the poor payment practices are delayed and the focus is on consumer rights and the banking sector rather than on helping businesses develop.

The Brexit campaign has picked up on these issues targeting small business owners with reduced taxation and regulation – they have seen the points of pain and reacted accordingly. As a result the campaign appears to be working showing that when you have high quality evidence you can make effective decisions. It is a shame that neither side has provided the same high quality evidence to the voters.

The dearth of evidence-based decisions in businesses is a concern – not all firms can fail cheaply or come up with successful iterations of a bootstrapped product without getting feedback but still professionals who should know better ignore the discipline.

The only headlines made on the EU referendum are likely to be around the success or lack of it from the pollsters but the real lessons that should be learnt will only be apparent to a few.  I hope the outcome will not be too much of an expensive mistake.

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