October 19 2016.

Small businesses are essential to the UK economy: they account for over 99 per cent of all private sector companies across all industries, 47 per cent of the country’s overall private sector turnover, and 60 per cent of all private sector employment. Directly and indirectly, they make significant contributions to the nation’s workforce, its tax revenues, and its GDP. So why are they relatively unsupported by the UK government?

It’s a historical problem, and one that crosses party divides. Gordon Brown appointed Lord Sugar, who described entrepreneurs as a bunch of ‘moaners [who] live in Disneyland’, as his business champion. The 2010-2015 coalition made loud noises about its ‘Project Merlin’ initiative – which was to see five major high street banks finance more SME loans – but it missed both of its initial lending targets and then disappeared off the face of the earth (no data for the project has been released since 2012).

In the last ten years alone, British SMEs have shared a ministerial portfolio with larger enterprises, universities and FE colleges, international trade, regulatory reform, energy and climate change. They’re always competing for attention and resources with other policy areas; the fact that government initiatives tend to be undercooked, neglected, or discarded entirely isn’t necessarily a surprise.

The British Business Bank (and the failures of enterprise finance initiatives)
The government could do more to encourage lending and raise.....

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