The Autumn Statement acknowledges that, while credit conditions are improving, SMEs face longer term challenges in securing access to finance.
After the launch of the British Business Bank which has started to deploy £1bn to support the supply of finance to SMEs, the Chancellor announced that the government will use unspent funding from the Business Finance Partnership to provide a further £250m for the British Business Bank’s new schemes that include:
- investing in late stage venture capital funds which in turn invest in high growth potential SMEs
- launching an innovative new scheme to support the provision of lease and asset finance
- launching a programme of wholesale guarantees for SME loans.
The government will also provide an additional £160m for Start Up Loans to 2018-19 in order to meet higher than expected demand and allow the scheme to roll out to all ages.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has been collecting evidence on whether banks are requiring SMEs to open or maintain a business current account in order to qualify for a loan. The government has asked the OFT to take decisive action to end this anti-competitive practice, if needed.
The Autumn Statement 2013 also announces further action to help British exporters take advantage of opportunities in new and emerging markets.
In particular the government will:
- give UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) greater financial independence and recruitment flexibility to back British business overseas and compete for inward investment
- establish British Business Centres to provide in-market services to SMEs in key emerging markets and step up UKTI coverage in China and India
- increase UK Export Finance (UKEF) support to exporters, including: doubling UKEF’s maximum commitment limit to £50bn; broadening the scope of the existing Direct Lending and Working Capital Schemes in order to help more companies; doubling the number of export finance advisers; and supporting insurance, pension funds and other investors to lend in support of UK exporters.
The Chancellor’s strategy for supporting business via access to finance is therefore mainly articulated on the new funding schemes deployed by the recently formed British Business Bank, a refinancing of the Start Up Loans scheme and an extension of support to British exporters which includes further financing capacity of UKEF.
ACCA will provide more in-depth analysis of these measures in the 20 December issue of In Practice, including guidance on the way start up loans work and a specific project on the application of the scheme.