Lords demand more advice be given to Britain’s small firms

Tim Wallace
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THE ECONOMY is being held back by small firms’ inability to access overseas markets – and government agencies are failing to help them properly, peers warned today.

Agencies like UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) and UK Export Finance (UKEF) are supposed to help SMEs sell goods and services abroad, but a House of Lords’ committee found very few were actually receiving any advice.

Only 21 had been helped by UKEF by August of last year, the report found, with even awareness of the agency’s existence at very low levels.

“We are calling on UKTI and UKEF to blow their own trumpets and promote their services for SMEs,” said committee chairman Lord Cope.

“They must work with business organisations, local chambers of commerce, banks and accountancy firms to ensure SMEs who could export know where to get help both in getting started and in building their turnover and profits overseas.”

The group also found small firms complaining it is hard to access finance from banks, and called on lenders to make more credit decisions at the local branch level, arguing that currently “decisions are made by distant executives and computers mean banks have lost important local knowledge.”