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Why SME finance must be a focus of the 2013 Budget

New GDP growth figures have provided more reason for cautious optimism among small businesses but, at the same time, it has underlined the need for more to be done to improve access to SME finance in the 2013 Budget.

The upward revision to the 2012 GDP figure is good news for small businesses but much rests on maintaining this forward momentum. As such, all eyes will be on the 2013 Budget and what steps the government takes to provide better access to small business lending – with the Funding for Lending scheme yet to pay dividends in terms of SME finance, attention is likely to be focused on the planned British Business Bank.

A strong statement of intent from the government could certainly provide some impetus. Figures from the latest Manufacturing Advisory Service Barometer show a healthy level of optimism among SMEs for 2013. Almost two thirds of manufacturing SMEs questioned are expecting sales turnover to grow in the coming months, while many also plan to invest in new facilities, machinery and personnel.

These findings underline the importance of access to small business lending facilities and, while alternative finance products such as selective invoice discounting are helping such companies overcome cautious attitudes from traditional lenders, more investment from the government is required.

With alternative finance facilities increasingly taking centre stage, further support for such initiatives would help small businesses – it is telling that early details of the British Business Bank suggest it will sidestep traditional banks and include an element of third-party finance.

Selective invoice discounting, along with other alternative finance products, has proven its value to small businesses, not least in relation to its flexibility and transparency as firms have sought access to start-up funding or to maintain cash flow. The further opening up of SME lending would only help to build confidence and momentum.

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