Government SME Scheme Spends Just Fraction Of Budget

Just Over 10% Of £30m Growth Vouchers Utilised, With Scheme Due To Close In Weeks

11.03.2015

A government scheme set up to support SMEs with funding for business advice has handed out just £3.6m of the original £30m pledged, with just weeks to go before it closes.

Launched in January 2014, the growth vouchers scheme is due to end on 31 March despite only distributing just over 10% of the allocated funds. Under the scheme, SMEs can apply for vouchers worth up to £2,000 to pay for business advice in marketing, recruitment and finance – provided they are able to match the voucher funding to pay for half the cost of the advice.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) says that 2,132 growth vouchers have been claimed so far, with an additional 5,694 vouchers held by businesses but yet to be spent. However, the additional unspent vouchers are worth £11m – still under half of the allocated funds.

The vouchers are handed to successful applicants at random, leading some small business owners to feel the service is unfair. Others who have received vouchers do not have the available funds to pay for their half of the fee.

A spokesperson for the BIS said: "More than 12,000 growth vouchers have been issued since the initiative launched in January 2014.

"Evidence gathered from this demand-led research programme will help us develop better business support schemes in the future as well as helping businesses decide what type of advice they need to grow."

Expert Opinion
The government has on numerous occasions referred to SMEs as the lifeblood of the economy, so with this in mind it is disappointing to see such little take-up of this scheme designed to give smaller firms a helping hand.

"Small businesses should not try to go it alone when it comes to developing and expanding their operations, and should ensure they have the right network of support available to help them along the way. Legal advice is key to this, but other areas that should be considered must include the government support they are entitled to.

"It is vital that more is done to ensure that support schemes meet the needs of SMEs and are also properly promoted to that community."
Steven Beahan, Partner