More govt support for SMEs called for

Friday 19 December 2014

The government has been called on to give more support to businesses, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises (SME).

This request was put forward by the international director for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Simon Moore, at the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee.

Among the groups that could be affected by changes that Mr Moore proposed are limited companies, sole traders and people thinking of setting up a business.

The BIS committee was a chance for industry representatives to feed into the department's inquiry on government support for business, particularly that which related to manufacturing and exports. Among other representatives that joined Mr Moore were representatives from the British Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Exports.

Mr Moore used the session as a chance for CBI to put forward members' feedback following its most recent regional council round on government business support. Among the areas that were targeted were marketing, awareness, simplification and consistency. Part of the reason why businesses are struggling with manufacturing and exports, Mr Moore said, is that there is a lack of awareness about the UK Trade and Industry and UK Export Finance services. However, he did highlight that there has been improvements over the last few years.

He also talked about areas where there has been success when it comes to increasing government support for business over recent times. Examples he pointed out included the Britain is GREAT campaign and the Foreign Office's focus on commercial diplomacy.

He also looked ahead to the next Parliament, explaining that the momentum on such initiatives must be maintained.

The BIS Select Committee has been looking at a number of programmes of support for business as part of its inquiry.

Among the areas on which is has put particular focus are The Manufacturing Advisory Service, Government support for exports, the Regional Growth Fund, the Green Investment Bank, the Business Bank and the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS).

The Business Bank and FLS programmes are intended to deal with the issues of access to finance, which has long been flagged as a problem among small businesses. Although the Business Bank and FLS have gone some way to improving it, evidence suggests more can be done.

For example, a recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that the cost of finance was a barrier to growth for 22 per cent of its members during the final quarter of 2014. This figure has actually gone up from the same time in 2013, when ten per cent cited this as an issue. What's more, the problem is more acute for businesses with no employees as only 11 per cent with no staff said they find credit affordable in 2014.

Other areas that the BIS Select Committee will be looking into as part of its enquiry on support for businesses is the funding and support provided to Local Enterprise Partnerships.


By Victoria McDonnell

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