Small businesses in England can now benefit from a new tranche of government grants designed to help them recover from the impact of coronavirus through professional advice – including guidance from accountants.
The scheme, which opened on 19 August, dispenses grants of between £1,000 – £5,000 to small and medium-sized businesses from an overall fund of £20m to help them access professional services advice from accountants, HR experts and lawyers, as well as purchase new technology and equipment.
Interested parties can access the funding – provided by the England European Regional Development Fund – as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, through 38 growth hubs within their Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area. Each LEP has been awarded a minimum of £250,000 to get the programme rolling.
The growth hub network works alongside local, national, public and private sector partners such as universities, Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business to coordinate and connect local business to the support they need.
Commenting on the launch of the scheme Simon Clarke, minister for regional growth and local government, said: “Small and medium sized businesses are the beating heart of communities; they provide employment and contribute significantly to local economies and we are determined to give them the support they need to continue to thrive.”
Mark Bretton, who chairs the entire LEP network as well as the Hertfordshire branch, said LEPs had an unrivalled understanding and insight of their local economies and were uniquely placed to coordinate the opportunities for government to bring in new funding for SMEs through growth hubs. By the end of 2020, growth hubs will have received around £72m via the government for businesses, according to Bretton.
“This latest tranche of funds shows the importance that the government is placing on supporting SMEs and an entrepreneurial element to lead us into recovery,” Bretton told ICAEW Insights. “As its public money there will be strong governance around how it will be spent.
“Bearing in mind that the government has given quite a lot of money to business through the various furlough and loan schemes, clearly we are very keen to make sure those business are helped through the difficult times, not just through furlough, but also providing the right support, advice and guidance to help them thrive and get past some of this.”
It follows the £2bn Kickstart Scheme, which seeks to create jobs for young people across the country, as well as numerous loans and tax reliefs, such as the VAT cut to help stimulate demand into the beleaguered hospitality industry, as well as cash grants such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.