The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has lambasted ministers for telling businesses to stop complaining and work harder.

Foreign secretary William Hague incurred the wrath of the business community for urging employers to “get on with the task of creating more jobs…rather than complaining about it”. He told the Sunday Telegraph: “There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.” Other ministers have sent a similar message to employers.

But ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Our latest research has shown that retailers are working more hours and are straining every sinew to survive and grow. “Local shops are an important source of employment for local people, investing in their communities and providing an essential service to their customers and as such, they may be alienated by these comments.”

He accused the government of letting big businesses ride roughshod over entrepreneurs, and of failing to get banks lending to small businesses.

“Whether it’s the abuse of news retailers by a monopoly supply chain, or the bully boy tactics of energy suppliers, retailers are undermined by not being able to have a fair business relationship,” he said.

“Let’s not over-complicate this: the government’s efforts to get banks lending to small businesses have failed. Our members report not just difficulties in getting finance, but also unilateral increases in borrowing costs and changes in terms including sky high borrowing fees.”