Enterprising Chancellor's Budget welcomed by National Enterprise Network
Business training providers are poised to deliver “evidence-based interventions” if and when funding for skills-based training actually lands.
Whilst the budget represents a brighter economic outlook than many might have expected, Rishi Sunak’s budget and spending review left start-up businesses, enterprise advocates and the recently self-employed unsure how or when the “good news” is coming their way.
The Chancellor declared on 27 October that public investment as a share of GDP will be at the highest sustained level for nearly half a century. But how much of this investment will be directed at supporting those currently furthest from the labour market to start, launch and grow their own businesses?
Enterprise support where it’s needed most:
As part of the review, Mr Sunak promised £644 million a year by 2024/25 across courts, prisons and probation services. Those working to support prison leavers into self-employment, such as NEN Member RIFT Social Enterprise, look forward to some of the public investment pledged by Mr Sunak being directed into enterprise support for hard-to-reach groups.
RIFT Social Enterprise Chief Executive, Andy Gullick, said;
I’m really pleased that our prisons will be receiving much needed investment. I’d like to ask Government to now look carefully at the provision of services for those leaving the criminal justice system, with the ideas and determination to start a new life by running their own business.
Only with the right support can these citizens begin their entrepreneurial journey equipped with the skills and resilience to be their own boss and create opportunities for others by taking on employees in the future. Like all members of the National Enterprise Network, we’re waiting for enterprise support to move higher up Government’s agenda – where it needs to be.
“Evidence-based interventions” is what schools have been encouraged to focus on, with an extra £4.7bn committed by the chancellor to the education sector. By the same rationale, enterprise support programmes, which have a demonstrable positive impact on unemployment rates across diverse communities, should be due an injection of Government cash.
Investing in levelling up:
The enterprise sector welcomes increased investment in the levelling up agenda, with NEN members eager for clarity on exactly how this will be rolled out. Concerns that levelling-up the UK will be achieved by levelling down London may be valid, as the announcement came that England’s capital will receive less than 2% of the first round of national funding for levelling-up projects.
Like their larger competitors, small businesses operating in retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will be thankful for the ability to claim business rates relief for another year. But many micro-enterprises and entrepreneurs will struggle, since the Chancellor revealed that the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will not be extended.
SEISS was designed to help self-employed workers through the pandemic, but many fell through the cracks as applicants needed to have worked for themselves for at least two years to qualify. Eligibility criteria for the Help to Grow scheme for smaller businesses also excludes a vast majority of start-ups formed during the pandemic.
High-skilled migration boosts innovation, jobs and competitiveness:
Included in this year’s budget was the Chancellor’s pledge to “help connect companies to the capital, skills and connections needed to innovate and grow”. As members across England continue working with refugee and migrant entrepreneurs, NEN was pleased that the government has recognised “it is vital that innovative businesses have access to the talent and skills they need”.
CEO of Menta and National Enterprise Network Chairman, Alex Till, said;
It’s great that the Treasury is increasing spending on innovation and skills by £3.8bn. We are now waiting to see when and how this investment can actually be drawn down by the enterprise support organisations who have lost out since the NEA, ERDF and other business support funds were cut.
The results of our recent Business Support Survey were reported to BEIS this month, and we look forward to their response. We have known for decades that more skills-based training is what is needed to help Britons create jobs for themselves and for their communities. Our network is equipped to deliver this training efficiently, across all regions, as soon as the funding falls into place.
As a strategic partner of British Business Bank, NEN welcomes the £1.6 billion to be invested in the bank’s regional funds, providing debt and equity finance to SMEs. While enterprise support providers wait to hear what portion of the £2.8 billion “capital investment in skills” might come their way, continued funding for the Start Up Loans Scheme, which provides loans and mentoring to people across the UK who want to start a business, is unequivocally good news for the sector.