Is the government failing to support SMEs and entrepreneurs?

Despite today’s announcement the economy has grown most SMEs don’t really think that they’re receiving the required central backing.

Sixty-five per cent of business leaders believe that they lack government support according to the respondents of the latest Enterprise Index research by Smith & Williamson.

The Enterprise Index, a quarterly barometer which tests the views of nearly 200 business leaders and entrepreneurs, indicates that political uncertainty is having a real impact on business confidence. Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents stated that political uncertainty is negatively impacting their business.

‘Businesses are suffering. There was a belief that the government was getting to grips with the scale-up business agenda, and the benefits this offers the economy, but progress appears to have stalled in an uncertain political environment,’ says Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services at Smith & Williamson.

‘The party conferences have been a mainstay of the newspapers over the past few weeks, but there has been little mention of any plans or support in this core area.’

Too much talk, not enough action

‘The introduction of a Scale-Up Champion, a Scale-Up Taskforce and the Patient Capital Review were all positive indicators of a government taking business seriously. However, as yet, there have been no meaningful developments for businesses,’ adds Rigby.

‘Each individual appointment, or development, seems to be piecemeal and there appears to be no coordinated strategy or plan on how our entrepreneurs can be supported. This seems to be left to private sector organisations, such as the ScaleUp Institute, which has limited authority and influence.’

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents believed that the impact of Brexit is real and nearly two thirds did not expect the economy to improve over the next 12 months.

‘Brexit appears to be all-pervading. This appears to be to the detriment of all other policy and the health of the wider economy. We need strong leadership and coordinated activity to rebuild economic confidence.’

Silver linings

Despite their lack of confidence in the government and ongoing Brexit fears, it seems that many entrepreneurs retain faith in their own business. More than three-fifths (62 per cent) are optimistic about their own prospects in the next 12 months and 58 per cent are still planning to increase headcount in the next quarter.

‘The global economy is experiencing a sustained period of growth. However, there are signs that Britain is beginning to lag behind. While business leaders tend to be a remarkably resilient group, they should take the opportunity of a benign world economy and Sterling weakness to explore export markets. It may not be for them but no business should overlook such an advantage.

‘In addition, businesses should continually be looking at the potential to drive efficiencies. A prime way of doing this is to embrace the opportunities that tech has to offer. Big data, AI and the cloud are becoming increasingly accessible to SMEs and it’s vital that a business looking to scale puts themselves in the best possible shape,’ concludes Rigby.

Further reading on government support

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Freddie Halvorson

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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