Chancellor George Osborne was yesterday urged to make family businesses a key partner in the government’s plans to drive growth and restore the fortunes of UK plc.

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In Norfolk nearly 20,000 businesses are family owned, helping to generate about 35pc of private sector turnover and providing 40pc of private sector jobs in the county while nationally family firms generate £1.1tn in revenues a year – a quarter of UK GDP.

And Ross Warburton, chairman of the Institute for Family Business (IFB) said the region’s 300,000 family firms could play a key role in securing jobs.

Speaking at a major international conference for family businesses which featured firms from across the region including Aspall Cyder, Whitworths, Ridgeons, Volac International and Howard Ventures, he said family-owned firms were an example of responsible capitalism and had a record of success during the recession. Recent research by Credit Suisse revealed that more than 60pc actually grew by 5pc or more in the last 12 months and one in 10 had grown by more than 15pc.

“We face a very challenging global environment,” he said. “We continue to be buffeted by global economic headwinds. People feel uncertain about the prospects for them and their families and insecure about their jobs.

“In the face of this, governments and policy makers appear to be struggling to find the elusive elixir of growth. Yet at the same time, despite the challenges, family firms continue to thrive and grow and are in many cases outperforming other businesses – a testament to the strength and resilience of the family business model.

“My message to government is this – make family business your key strategic partner in attracting inward investment to the UK and driving exports through our relationships with the flourishing family business sector in key markets around the world.”

Steven Scarlett, partner and specialist family business adviser at Lovewell Blake in Norwich, backed the call to help family firms.

“Family businesses certainly have a head start against some large corporates when it comes to customer service, reputation and hence referral business. After all, if your name is above the door you tend to be a more committed, personable type of business. It’s good to see figures that demonstrate family businesses thriving during a recession especially when they are such an important part of the Norfolk community, but with additional support from the government and business advisors, there is so much more potential for them to be even more successful.”

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