Rishi Sunak has appointed his Special Advisor on Business & Investment, Franck Petitgas, to sit on the newly-created Small Business Council.
Alongside the Minister for Enterprise, Markets & Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake, Petitgas will attend a quarterly meeting to discuss specific issues impacting the UK’s SME community, in collaboration with small business representatives.
After years of chaos for small businesses, the role is intended to ensure their voices are represented within the government. So who is the new council host, and what will he do for UK SMEs?
Who is Franck Petitgas?
French international Franck Petitgas is former global co-head of investment banking at Morgan Stanley. Petitgas previously oversaw the bank’s international operations outside the US while based in London.
Before his retirement in November 2022, Petitgas, who also holds the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civil and military award, had worked at the US investment bank for an impressive 30-year run.
He was appointed as the PM’s Special Advisor in April last year, after a government shake-up of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The new position was created to boost business investment and aid economic recovery following a rapid rise of inflation to 11%, which has since halved to 4.4%.
Petitgas took over the position from Boris Johnson’s advisor, Alex Hickman, who stepped down from the role in 2020.
Announcing the creation of the new council on LinkedIn, Sunak said he had “ a special message for each and every one of you who have made the sacrifices necessary to start your own business. I want you to know we are backing you all the way.”
What will Franck Petitgas do for small businesses?
The creation of the new Small Business Council was welcomed by SME owners on LinkedIn. Small companies have been grappling with a number of issues including rising energy bills and business rates, confusion over tax cuts, and labour shortages.
In a government press release, Sunak said: “Coming from a small business family, I know how integral business is to communities and the wider economy. That’s why I’m getting businesses in for a regular update on how well we are doing in delivering for business – straight from the shop floor.”
The latter is one area the new council co-host will likely focus on. Reportedly, Petitgas has previously focused on getting more Brits into the workforce during meetings with executives.
Labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that a record number of people are out of work due to long-term sick leave, exacerbating the existing talent crisis.
Last year, Bloomberg reported that Petitgas intended to reduce the number of inactive workers by about 20% by using flexible work arrangements to offer more employment opportunities for vulnerable or out-of-work individuals.
The government has backed these plans with the creation of two new policies designed to enable remote work and provide more employee protections: the Flexible Working Bill and the Predictable Working Hours Bill.