IN the second part of his report on small firms, Lord Young sets out 10 key strategies that he believes will boost the UK’s small business and help them grow.
1 A public sector single market
Lord Young proposes that government departments and local authorities simplify procurement and make procedures consistent, responding to SME concerns that application systems for government contracts are inconsistent and complex.
2 Start-up loans at any age
To qualify for the current scheme of start-up loans, entrepreneurs must be under 30 years old. Young suggests removing this age limitation and making all new businesses which cannot access private finance eligible for government assistance.
3 Slash red tape from public contracts
Young wants to scrap questionnaires and pre-security screening for contracts worth under €200,000. Both are seen by Young as barriers to government procurement contracts for small businesses.
4 £30m growth voucher
This would allow sole traders and SMEs in some sectors to employ government-funded specialist assistance in taking on employees, organising financial assistance or improving productivity.
5 SME links with business schools
Young wants to design a “Supporting Small Business Charter” to enlist business schools for help with small firms’ strategic planning as well as assisting in referring enterprises for start-up loans and growth vouchers.
6 Encouraging graduates into SMEs
As part of this new relationship between business schools and small firms, Young hopes to increase the number of graduates moving from education to employment in SMEs, combating negative perceptions of smaller firms.
7 Setting up an online hub for advice
Encouraging private sector organisations to create web sites offering advice for SME development, which would be hosted on the government’s own digital repository at GOV.UK. Young wants to improve on BusinessLink’s previous service.
8 Effective use of the internet
The government should aim to reach 250,000 small businesses over the next five years, offering them assistance with using the web. Small and medium-sized enterprises with a strong web presence grow twice as quickly as those who do not use the internet, meaning many are not reaching their full potential.
9 Advertising SME support
An increase in marketing and advertising for schemes to help small firms, making owners aware of the support that exists. Young wants five per cent of spending on support used to advertise government programmes.
10 Helping firms with technology
The report advocates wider adoption of e-invoicing and other tasks that could be more efficiently done with better use of technology. Young finds that 82 per cent of small businesses have adopted no new practices in the past year and spend an average of 11.4 hours every week on administration which could be assisted by technology.