Future business support funding after Brexit should help to rebalance growth across the UK, targeting more deprived areas across the country, says a report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC).
The Sharing Prosperity report declares it is critical that funding levels are not cut when the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) comes into effect following the UK’s exit from the European Union on March 29 2019.
The creation of UKSPF will give the Government greater flexibility when distributing business support funds across the UK and devolved nations. The report calls for small businesses to be front and centre of the new fund, with a specific focus on small firms in more deprived parts of the country, described in the report as ‘less favoured areas’ (LFAs).
The report has found that it’s vital that current overall funding levels are not cut, with control of devolved spend maintained by the devolved nations. The report also recommends the creation of a new Business England brand for business support in England to encourage more engagement and give a consistent picture across the country, particularly focussing on key areas like access to finance.
Key to distributing the support funding fairly will be allowing each Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) with input from a new ‘small business champion’ who will sit on each LEP board.
The report calls for all LEPs to create their own strategy to identify areas in need of more funding, and plan tailored support for them.
Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “As the UK leaves the EU, a large amount of business support funding will be transferred to UK control. This gives us a great opportunity to reflect on the current support landscape and rebalance the system, looking at how funds are best spent to benefit small firms across the UK.
“To do this properly, policymakers must realise the potential and ambition of business owners in these ‘less favoured areas’ across the UK. The ambition is there – our research shows that business owners in more deprived areas want to become business leaders in their communities.
“Providing the right support will allow them to ramp up productivity, create jobs and see their business community grow.
“We’ve set out a number of recommendations to help rebalance the economy. The amount of funding is critical to at least maintain, or increase, current support levels.”
You can read the full report here