New figures reveal that the government has only awarded £6.8million of the £20million set aside to help businesses struggling with post-Brexit red tape
The government failed to meet their target of helping 10,000 businesses with only 4,376 grants awarded totalling £6.8million
Business groups have testified that applicants were deterred by the onerous application process and insufficient support on offer.
The cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission is calling for another round of bidding with a simpler application and more substantial grants.
New figures reveal that the government has paid out just a third of the money set aside to help businesses cope with the increased bureaucracy and costs resulting from the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The SME Brexit Support Fund allocated £20million to assist the UKs 600,000 exporting SMEs. The scheme drew criticism at launch for providing an average of just £30 to £40 per qualifying business, at a time when the government announced their intention to spend £200million on a new trade yacht.
In June it was reported that the government originally had a target to provide grants to 10,000 businesses. Applications for the scheme closed at the end of June with only 4,376 grants awarded from 5,414 applications totalling £6.8million, just over a third of the total amount set aside.
Regional inequity is also a factor, with businesses in England having been offered £5,862,213, compared to £387,387 in Scotland, £196,546 in Wales and £360,174 in Northern Ireland.
In May, the Federation of Small Businesses among others warned the cross party UK Trade and Business Commission that businesses, already burdened by increased admin since 1st January, were being deterred from the scheme by the complex application process and the limited support on offer. The British Chambers of Commerce also suggested that the maximum grant available should be increased. Consequently the Commissioners sent a letter to the government calling for the SME business support fund to be expanded.
Hilary Benn MP, co-chair of the UK Trade and Business Commission, said: “It seems that the Government’s support scheme is more of an obstacle course, which discourages applications by making SMEs jump through too many hoops for a very small return.
“We have heard first hand testimony from businesses continuing to face serious hardships since leaving the EU. If the government really wants to support them, they must hold another round of bidding with a simplified application process and more substantial grants.”
Naomi Smith, Chief Executive of internationalist campaign group Best for Britain which is Secretariat for the UK Trade and Business Commission said: “After a rushed deal with the EU, which had scant parliamentary oversight, SMEs are facing crippling costs, burdensome bureaucracy, and disrupted supply lines. Without real action by the government, small businesses risk falling through the holes in this deal and into the abyss, taking British jobs with them.”