Setting up and running a business can be a daunting prospect, and it is a lot of hard work. But it is also one of the most rewarding things that you can do and can be one of the most positive changes someone can make for themselves and the community they live in. These are the people that we champion – the Real Life Entrepreneurs.
Access to finance – a Small Business Bank
No issue has dominated the news and political debates as much as small firms' troubles accessing finance. We have debated this issue since the start of the financial crash as members struggle to get the finance they need. Our research shows that 40 per cent of small firms have been refused credit from their bank. But it isn't just accessing finance that is an issue, the cost is a major problem too.
After our lobbying the Government for some time, we were happy to welcome the announcement of the Small Business Bank.
In our Alt+ Finance paper, we call on the Government to champion non-bank finance and take action to help alternative finance providers supply capital to small firms, such as peer-to-peer lending models. We ask the Government to learn lessons from countries where routes to finance are varied, local longer-term and reliable.
Small businesses are key to tackling high unemployment. The labour market remains fragile. Recent unemployment has fallen, however, confidence in the market remains low while company finances are squeezed with rising costs and falling demand.
Yet a groundbreaking report shows that each year small and medium sized businesses take on around 1.3 million unemployed and disadvantaged people. Large businesses hire less than 130,000 on average.
The report finds groups such as long term sick, disabled and students, among others, are more likely to be employed by a small business. In fact, 95 per cent of this group that find work in the private sector will work for or start up a small or medium sized business. Almost nine in 10 (88%) unemployed people that are actively looking for work and find a job in the private sector will join, ore start up, a small business.
Local councils spend £88 billion per year on procurement. Yet many do not knowing where or what size business they are trading with, so local communities are losing out. We polled all local councils to see how and where they spend their money.
The survey revealed some interesting and often positive findings, with many councils indicating that over half their procurement spend went to small and medium sized businesses. However, of the 148 local authorities that responded, we found more than a third (38%) of councils do not actively record the location of their spending and almost a half (49%) don't know size of business they trade with.
We want to see a more accurate and public record of spend so that it can properly inform strategy and decision making. This will help to embed and understand the link between procurement and local economic development.
Revitalising our rural economy
Our research shows that six in 10 (63%) of small, rural firms are suffering with the speed of their broadband. Those living and working in rural areas across England face a greater challenge getting from A to B than theirurban counterparts. People living in the countryside travel 45 per cent further in England than those based in urban areas. Yet six in 10 small firms said the state of the road network adversely affected their business. This blocks the growth of countryside businesses.
We are calling on the Government to put 20Mbps broadband in place to 98 per cent of the countryside. We need to close the digital divide between rural and urban businesses and give countryside businesses in England better access to markets. Businesses also need to be able to move quickly and easily to their suppliers and customers, without unnecessary cost, be that through time or money. That is why we are calling for a commitment to more investment, maintenance and upgrading of UK roads.