SMEs struggle to access “complex” state support

SMEs struggle to access “complex” state supportGovernment business support is difficult to access according to a report by the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee.


The BIS inquiry into Government Support for Business focused on access to finance, support for exports, manufacturing and efforts to encourage local growth. It found that the myriad schemes are often poorly communicated and difficult for businesses to access.


There are over 600 different support schemes currently advertised on the government website, many with different objectives, eligibility, funding and contact points.


MP Adrian Bailey, chair of the BIS Committee, said: “While the government’s current approach is largely positive, we found businesses are not always clear about the support on offer, finding it poorly communicated, confusing and not focused enough on business need. Government needs to do better at getting the word out so businesses know what support exists.”


The report also found that too many businesses still struggle to get the financial support they need.


Bailey said: “The experiences of SMEs trying to access finance from the banks is still mixed. The government needs to tackle this lending problem by capitalising on the British Business Bank’s expertise and creating clear signposting so that businesses are aware of the alternative finance providers which could help them.”


Business groups welcomed the findings. John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: “Consistency and clarity, rather than continuous revolution, should characterise government support to business.”


John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Currently many small businesses don’t understand their options or don’t know the support that is available to them. This is not helped by the constant churn in schemes. To encourage take-up, what is required is a far more rigorous, focused approach with a clear understanding of businesses’ needs.”


He added: “At the local level, Growth Hubs have the potential to provide a clear route to support through often fragmented local provision. At the national level, the FSB continues to advocate adopting the approach in the USA of a Small Business Administration to co-ordinate schemes and provide the required focus.”


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