Access to finance a concern for small firmsThe Federation of Small Businesses has warned that sluggish economic growth, weak consumer demand and higher interest rates on loans are damaging confidence among Britain’s small companies. In the group’s latest barometer of sentiment among small employers, six in ten companies said that the domestic economy was a significant barrier to growth, while more than one in three said that they were struggling to find skilled staff. The FSB’s survey of 1,064 small businesses suggests that confidence among small employers is at its lowest level since the wake of the financial crash in 2011. Access to finance remains a key concern. Three quarters of successful applicants for bank loans said that they had been offered a borrowing rate of 5% or more, a record for the survey, while the proportion of small companies applying for external finance in the first place remains low, at around one in eight.