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Business: Government Assistance

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills pursuant to the answer of 2 March 2009, Official Report, column 1341W, on business: Government assistance, what assessment he has made of the likely effects on levels of borrowing by small businesses in the next 12 months of the operation of the Working Capital scheme. (261653)

We have taken steps to help improve cash flow, to increase the availability of the credit businesses need, and to encourage investment so that businesses come through the recession ready to grow.

In particular, we obtained bank lending commitments from RBS and Lloyds to lend £27 billion additional lending to businesses this year. This includes lending guaranteed under the Working Capital scheme.

In addition, we introduced a Trade Credit Insurance top-up scheme which provides protections for firms suffering a reduction in cover.

We have also taken steps to assist small businesses to overcome short-term cash-flow problems—for example the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and also measures to ensure prompt payment by both public and private sectors.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what support his Department is providing to small and medium-sized businesses in Milton Keynes. (280879)

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills support to small and medium-sized businesses in Milton Keynes is provided through South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).

SEEDA provides a full range of support mechanisms to small and medium-sized businesses operating in Milton Keynes. The support falls into two broad categories:

1. Strategic Business Development and Engagement—comprising the Sub Regional Partnership and Employment and Skills Board (MKELP) and Milton Keynes Science and Innovation, for example.

2. Business support—primarily through Business Link, Manufacturing Advisory Service, Continuous Employment Support Service, and Financial Assistance.

More detailed information can be found in the attached SEEDA-produced background information.

1. SEEDA Specific Milton Keynes Strategic Business Development and Engagement

Sub Regional Partnership and Employment and Skills Board (MKELP)

SEEDA funds the Milton Keynes Economic and Learning Partnership (MKELP) with the purpose of bringing together business and the public sector in Milton Keynes to agree and align priorities and investment at local and sub regional level. MKELP is also financially supported by Milton Keynes Council and the Homes and Communities Agency.

MKELP specifically:

Works to align regional and local economic strategy to benefit businesses and local stakeholders in Milton Keynes.

Understands employer issues in Milton Keynes and makes regional partners aware of these issues and challenges.

Identifies key growth/economically important sectors and works closely with Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) to help them raise employer demand and investment in skills and encourage employers to engage with and drive the work of their SSC.

Development of the Partnership's approach to the knowledge economy and the Science and Innovation agenda, encompassing, for example, the Innovation Growth Team, Electric Vehicle infrastructure for the city and inward investment, as well as supporting the bid for Milton Keynes to be a host city in the 2018 Football World Cup and developing a strong higher education offer for local businesses.

Milton Keynes Science and Innovation (MKSI)

Local partners in Milton Keynes are developing a vision to “create the most exciting habitat in the UK for knowledge intensive business” in Milton Keynes. SEEDA is a key stakeholder in this steering group, drawing on its ‘know how’ and expertise in developing and implementing science and innovation activity elsewhere in the region. SEEDA is also funding a full time project manager to drive the initiative forward.

Milton Keynes South Midlands (mksm) Growth Area

SEEDA (with East of England Development Agency and East Midland Development Agency) has been working with Local Authorities and stakeholders to support the mksm growth area. An Economic Development Plan is being produced focussing on supporting key growth business sectors across mksm with an underpinning skills strategy. The aim is to ensure the jobs target for mksm and Milton Keynes is achieved and includes high quality jobs in the knowledge economy and growth sectors.

Progress has been presented to the mksm local authority Leaders group and mksm is aiming to have a final Economic Development Plan by October 2009. This plan will feed into a developing Multi Area Agreement which will include Transport objectives and actions.

2. Direct Support to Businesses in Milton Keynes which is also available to all businesses in South East

Business Link and Enterprise Gateway

MK Businesses support interventions1

Number

2006-09

12,857

2006-07

4,118

2007-08

4,442

2008-09

4,297

1 Companies are able to receive the Business Link service as often as they need and are counted once per annum

MK intensive assists1

Number

2006-09

1,550

2006-07

409

2007-08

530

2008-09

611

1 Action plan agreed

MK Business healthchecks since October 2008: 384

MK, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire businesses helped in 2008/09 through Enterprise Gateway scheme: 163

Business Link provides business support and advice for all individuals and businesses already trading or thinking of starting. Benefits include:

Free Business Health Checks, including maximising cash flow, marketing and business planning, debt management, new market and product development.

Access to finance advice, credit crunch presentations and finance clinics.

Guidance and events on how to survive and thrive in difficult times, including advice on reducing energy consumption and costs.

Access to the SEEDA funded Resource Efficiency programme.

Access to advice and signposting to skills and training opportunities through the ‘Train to Gain’ service.

Analysis and information on new business opportunities and markets.

In addition the Enterprise Gateway service (delivered through Business Link) offers impartial, professional advice to individuals from under-represented communities facing barriers to enterprise. Business Link also delivers sustainable business advice.

Investor Development Manager (IDM)

The SEEDA IDM is currently working with seven companies who are making redundancies, five companies linking to train to gain and a further 10 companies on a variety of other support needs.

SEEDA funds an Investor Development Manager (IDM), Guy Hawking, who works with strategically important companies in Milton Keynes.

Innovation and Growth Teams

Operational from summer 2009

On 1 June 2009 a new support service started in Milton Keynes aimed at providing tailored, specialist and technical business expertise to high growth businesses. This sendee will be delivered by an Innovation and Growth Team directed by a consortium of local partners and managed by the Open University. The aim of this service is to create communities of innovation and growth ultimately generating substantial local and regional economic benefits that improve the global competitiveness of the South East.

Continuous Employment Support Service

In the last nine months 12 companies were supported in Milton Keynes, 761 people were helped.

Companies thinking about making staff redundant or undertaking a redundancy programme can access the free ‘Continuing Employment Support Service’ run by Jobcentre Plus in partnership with SEEDA. CESS offers a free in-house package of support to all affected workers before they leave their employment, offering tailored advice on future options.

Inward Investment

In 2008/09 SEEDA referred 34 inquiries to Invest MK.

SEEDA has an inward investment team who aim to attract business from other countries to locate in the South East.

Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS)

Between 2006/09 40 companies were assisted through MAS

MAS South East aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of manufacturers in the region to create sustainable improvements. Businesses can access hands-on advice and tailored support from experts to suit the individual requirements of their business to produce real results.

Grants for Business Investment (GBI)

There has been one grant offered

The GBI scheme has recently been extended to be available to all South East eligible SMEs with long-term viability whose investment plans are being held up by current economic conditions. The scheme aims to assist businesses to increase productivity by funding capital investment in equipment and technology. It is for businesses looking to expand, modernise, rationalise, diversify and increase productivity in order to maintain or establish sustainable growth and provide skilled jobs.

Grant for Research and Development

There have been and grants for R&D in MK between 2006-09 (totalling £951,000)

The SEEDA managed grants for R&D are focused on encouraging businesses to carry out projects that they would not necessarily undertake without the grant and lever in to these projects finance from reluctant private investment sources.

Finance South East (FSE) Accelerator Fund

One company in Milton Keynes has been offered the accelerator fund

The accelerator fund is a loan fund which supports small and medium sized companies in the South East with the potential for significant growth (early stage or established companies). It is a response to the needs of entrepreneurial businesses who require the level of growth investment provided by risk capital, but which are reluctant to relinquish an equity stake in the company at an early stage.

Commercialisation Fund

One company has been offered the commercialisation fund (worth £29,000)

This new fund of up to £3 million supports businesses with high growth potential to bring new products and services to market.

Transition Loan Fund

The fund has not yet been allocated to any MK businesses

SEEDA is providing up to £3 million in a new Regional Transition Fund known as the Bridging Mezzanine Debt Fund to be directed at fully established, viable and growing businesses that are currently facing difficulties in obtaining credit through banks and other traditional routes.

Funding is provided at commercial rates for these unsecured loans, and interest is rolled up and paid at maturity, thereby making the Fund attractive to some businesses urgently needing to address liquidity problems.

Milton Keynes Area Programme

There were 87 businesses supported between 2006-09

The overall emphasis of interventions within Milton Keynes was capacity building, particularly in line with skills, learning and employability with a focus on NEET young people (not in employment, education or training). The largest project was ‘Routes to Success’ which was based on the development of transparent progression routes for residents, including outreach links, IAG in local communities, then leading to open days, short skills sessions and courses, finally moving to specialist training.

Rural

There were two Farm Diversification Grants between 2006-09

There were three businesses supported within the European Rural Development programme (ERDP) between 2006-08

£2.4 million has been allocated to the Leader area, however, projects are not yet operational

SEEDA funds rural programmes in Milton Keynes including Farm Diversification and Rural Redundant Building schemes. In addition SEEDA manages £60 million Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) EU Programme (previously termed ERDP).

The rural Leader programme for Milton Keynes is within the North Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes area. This wholly EU funded programme is aimed at farmers and forestry diversification with a strong element of community projects.

“Immerse” Initiative

Businesses not yet supported as a new programme

SEEDA is introducing and funding a new programme, Immerse, which provides intensive, extended design support to selected larger businesses. Immerse is part of the ‘Designing Demand’ programmes.

UKTI International Trade Sector Specialists

These are senior executives seconded to UK Trade and Investment from industry spearheading the Government’s export drive, helping small and medium-sized enterprises and larger companies to win business around the world. They are available for free consultations and can offer practical exporting advice, information on specific opportunities in markets and sectors.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many businesses in Perth and North Perthshire constituency (a) have sought access to funds under and (b) are receiving assistance from the Working Capital Scheme. (284202)

None. The working capital scheme provides guarantees to banks on portfolios of short-term loans: businesses cannot apply for guarantees under this scheme.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many businesses in Perth and North Perthshire constituency (a) have sought access to funds under and (b) are receiving assistance from the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme. (284203)

The Enterprise Finance Guarantee was launched on 14 January. Set out in the following table is the information for the constituency of Perth and North Perthshire as of 19 August.

Perth and North Perthshire

Number of loans offered

5

Number of loans drawn

4

Value of loans offered (£ million)

0.85

Value of loans drawn (£ million)

0.42

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many businesses in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire (i) have sought access to funding under and (ii) are receiving assistance from the Working Capital Scheme. (284562)

None. The Working Capital Scheme provides guarantees to banks on portfolios of short-term loans: businesses cannot apply for guarantees under this scheme.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent steps the Government have taken to assist small businesses to pay their business rates. (291299)

I have been asked to reply.

On 31 July 2009 the Non-Domestic Rating (Deferred Payments) (England) Regulations 2009 came into force to enable businesses to defer until 2010-11 and 2011-12 payment of 3 per cent. their total 2009-10 business rate bills and, additionally, 60 per cent. of the increase in bills caused by the ending of the transitional relief scheme for the 2005 revaluation period.

Billing authorities sent all ratepayers a flyer about these regulations. This also contained information about the Small Business Rate Relief scheme which allows eligible businesses to claim up to 50 per cent. relief on their rates bills.