Finance · 10 May 2017

Failure to replace 3.6bn EU funding threatens to ground small business growth

EU funding
Firms in Yorkshire and the North East of England were the most likely to apply for EU funding
The incoming government must prioritise new enterprise support initiatives to replace EU funding worth 3.6bn to small firms, according to a new report.

In its latest report, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) outlined proposals to ensure effective support services for small firms were in place once Britain leaves the EU. Currently, there are no regional development funds planned beyond 2021 in Britain.

By 2021, small business owners across the UK will be ‘staring into a business support black hole, according to FSB chairman Mike Cherry. He added the issue was a particular threat for firms in less economically developed regions.

Some eight in ten small business owners contacted a business support service in the last year, according to the study, highlighting the need for policy makers to replace EU directives domestically.

Research also revealed the link between owners with high growth ambitions and the likelihood to apply for funding and support. Almost 90 per cent of those looking to grow their company by 20 per cent or more applied for direct funding.

While 68 per cent of small business owners who had accessed EU funding reported a positive impact on company growth, the FSB uncovered a number of frustrations with the application rounds. Just one in ten found the process straightforward, with the length of submission forms the most common problem.

The FSB urged policy makers to learn from the failures of EU funding and support directivesand tackle the levels of bureaucracy preventing small business owners from seeking support.

if the next government is serious about developing an Industrial Strategy that delivers prosperity across all areas of England, it must replace EU funding dedicated to small business support and access to finance after we leave the EU, Cherry said in a statement.

To fill the void left by EU funding initiatives, the FSB proposed a Growth Fund for England that would simplify existing funding rounds available through Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

Cherry added: it’s not unusual to find small firms giving up halfway through an application because forms are too long or complex, or they fear grants will be clawed back at the first sign of an admin slip. Sadly, it’s often the time-poor businesses most in need that struggle in the face of this bureaucracy.”

Cherry said Brexit marked an unprecendent opportunity? for government to reform the ways small business owners access support and funding and stressed the importance of a localised approach.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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