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The Autumn Statement: SME finance shortchanged?

The Autumn Statement is being widely trumpeted as a triumph for small businesses, but a question mark remains over SME finance and the lack of support for alternative finance.

The raft of measures designed to improve conditions for small businesses announced by George Osborne is certainly welcome, in particular the extension of the Funding for Lending scheme to the tune of £500 million and the planned review of and cap on small business rates. However, just as there is a feeling that the Chancellor could have gone further in terms of reforming the small business rates system, he has arguably come up short with regard to SME finance.

The move to extend the Funding for Lending scheme looks impressive on paper but let’s not forget that this initiative hasn’t improved access to SME lending on the scale that the government had hoped. Far from it in fact. Hence the sense that more could have been done to promote services such as invoice finance, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding.

The decision to bolster the Enterprise Capital Funds – government-backed venture capital funds that invest in small businesses – with an injection of £400 million is positive in terms of encouraging the growth of the UK private placement market, but small businesses need more immediate and accessible help with regard to getting their hands on capital and managing cash flow.

The change in the government’s attitude towards alternative finance over the last 12-18 months has been notable, and it has taken steps to integrate a number of services into its business sector strategy. However, it needs to do more to improve awareness of its initiatives and alternative finance services in general. It’s a shame that there wasn’t more emphasis on educating small businesses about non-bank finance and ensuring that they know exactly what is on offer and how to access it.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact us on 01903 602211 or info@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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