Press release

Business leaders warn UK faces business support 'cliff edge' and postcode lottery

Business leaders warn UK faces business support 'cliff edge' and postcode lottery
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation

Posted: Fri 15th Mar 2024

Business leaders are warning that the UK faces a business support cliff edge and postcode lottery when the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) ends in 12 months time.

Business support platform providers, fintech experts, early-stage support providers and policy makers gathered at The Future of Funding for Small Business Support, held at Birmingham Library to debate what needs to happen to shore up future finance for entrepreneurs in the region and across the UK.

At the crux of the debate was the UKSPF which finances, among other things, local regeneration and early-stage local businesses and start-ups and job creation. The scheme is scheduled to close in March 2025, with no current plan for extension.

Speaking at the event Cllr Beverley Neilsen, executive director at the Institute for Design, Economic Acceleration & Sustainability (IDEAS), who also serves as an Advisory Board Member at the Centre for the New Midlands said:

"Small businesses are facing quite a cliff edge at the moment. In Malvern Hills we have £2.5m in UKSPF to take us to March 2025 and with funding for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) closing next month, we don't know what's happening.

"It takes months to plan the schemes that use UKSPF funding, so it will not be good if news about the funding comes through at the last minute, we need to know now.

"Combined Authorities have had time to organise and shift towards a devolved approach, but we don't know what happens in a two-tier system.

"An OECD report, Understanding Firm Growth: Helping SMEs Scale Up, found that more than half of all new jobs are created by SMEs scaling up. The only thing that is clear is that failure to address this issue will be detrimental to local economies."

Richard Jeffery, national director at The Growth Company, said:

"Not every area of the country fully understands the deep benefits that business support can bring. Focusing on creating a thriving business base can solve lots of wider challenges faced by places.

"Supporting local SMEs is not just about new jobs, with a thriving base of SMEs you get better jobs, better business, more innovation and businesses that can contribute so much to local places. These are the key points."

The event, hosted by small business support platform and membership community Enterprise Nation alongside Mastercard's Strive UK programme, also suggested there could be a role for Open Finance and artificial intelligence to enable an efficient targeting of the right support at the right time.

Enterprise Nation runs its Make a Plan initiative in partnership with Mastercard's Strive UK programme, which is a free digital tool that helps businesses build skills and develop plans for growth.

Hilary Smyth-Allen, executive director of SuperTech WM said small firms were moving to challenger banks for quicker, more intuitive business lending as part of the evolution of Open Banking.

Open finance promises more beyond this that can significantly increase the lending options for SMEs, but it requires some real leadership to make this happen. Some of this is technical, but some of it is about mindset, policy and cultural change from key actors in industry, government and associated agencies."

Natasha Jamal, vice president, social impact, Mastercard, said:

"Small businesses need fast, effective and easy access to support. That's why we've worked with Enterprise Nation to build a one stop shop where entrepreneurs can access the resources they need from a single platform.

"Tech plays an enormous role in providing support to small businesses, enabling access to resources which are targeted and helping businesses make better decisions by using data."

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) business policy lead Dan Carins said the combined authority was hoping to get a single settlement from the Treasury rather than piecemeal short-term budgets. He said:

"The idea is to secure one single settlement and agree outcomes, gold plated evaluation and reporting up front."

Cairns added that WMCA was also working towards incorporating business support into Investment Zone funding to include circa £20m in revenue funding.

According to Companies House data, more than 40,000 businesses were registered in the West Midlands in 2023, an increase of 13 per cent on the year before and the city is home to 598 high growth companies with a total of 305,000 active companies.

Micro businesses in The West Midlands region make up 88 per cent of the total business population, Labour Market statistics show, with 2,428,885 active firms.


About Enterprise Nation

Enterprise Nation is a business support platform and provider delivering support to more than 800,000 small businesses a year in the UK and Ireland. Its aim is to help people turn their good ideas into great businesses -- through expert advice (including a comprehensive resources library), events, acceleration support programmes and networking.   

Enterprise Nation was founded in 2005 by British entrepreneur Emma Jones. She is author of best-selling business books and is a frequently called-on and regular media commentator on a range of issues which affect the UK's growing number of SMEs.

About Strive UK

Strive UK is an initiative of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth that aims to empower 650,000 micro and small businesses in the UK to succeed in the digital economy over the next three years through free guidance, helpful tools, and personalised, one-to-one mentoring.

The programme is run in partnership with Enterprise Nation, Digital Boost and Be the Business, and has been designed to complement Government initiatives such as Help to Grow. Strive UK builds on Mastercard's $250 million commitment to support small businesses' financial security and extends the company's commitment to financial inclusion, with efforts underway to bring a total of one billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025.

  • Enterprise Nation has built a data-driven "One Stop Shop" for micro and small businesses to help them understand and find the resources, programmes and tools available to them. The company also manages a Strive Learning Network, bringing together large corporates and not for profits involved in delivering support to small firms for the purpose of sharing views and insight on what's working when it comes to building the conditions for enterprise to thrive. Visit

  • Be the Business is delivering bespoke digital adoption and leadership development programmes for minority ethnic owned/led micro and small business, with a special focus on female owners from minority ethnic backgrounds.

  • Digital Boost is providing mentorship, advice and coaching to help micro and small business owners to develop critical business skills.

Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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