The head of asset finance at the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) has called on the government to provide “fresh thinking” on how to integrate existing networks to help SMEs find finding at the right time.
The call comes as prime minister Boris Johnson considers a restructuring of the civil service and ahead of chancellor Sajid Javid’s 11 March budget. When questioned by the BBC earlier this month, Javid said his budget would usher in an “infrastructure revolution”.
The FLA was responding to the National Audit Office statement urging the government to do more to “ensure that its activities to support businesses are aligned and well-coordinated.”
Goldie said: “Greater coordination between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and HM Treasury would be a good starting point, but government really needs to harness the expertise of financial services organisations to help them assess the effectiveness of their existing schemes and to provide some fresh thinking on how to integrate existing networks like the UK’s Growth Hubs and Local Enterprise Partnerships into the broader effort to help SMEs find the right funding at the right time.”
The NAO published two reports, the first looks at the management of the support the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) provided to businesses.
In the second report, examines the British Business Bank’s impact on SME access to finance and its preparedness to respond to future challenges.
The BBB was set up by BEIS to help make access to finance interventions more coherent and it has had some success in this area, the NAO said.
The reports found the “support government provides to businesses is fragmented between different departments and often lacks overall coordination and prioritisation.”
However, the report on the BBB asks whether the BEIS and HM Treasury should consider whether their statement of 2014 that the bank would operate all national SME access to finance schemes across government, still holds.
The NAO’s analysis of ten schemes run by BEIS found not enough was being done to understand what schemes are most helpful to businesses.
The report found “six out of the 10 schemes lacked measurable objectives and only one had a thorough evaluation of the scheme’s impact, making it difficult for BEIS to know which to continue with and which to stop.”
It also said: “The report finds there are signs that BEIS is improving the setup and management of new schemes, but it is too soon to tell whether they have had an impact.”
They also found the BBB had performance metrics and carried out an evaluation of its impact on SMEs.
The NAO says said analysis will need to be ongoing as the value of many of the Bank’s interventions will only be known in the long-term and there is currently limited information on the cost-effectiveness of its activities.
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “Government understands the importance of better coordination and coherence across the schemes it provides to business, but it still has some way to go before all the dots are joined up. More thorough evaluation of which schemes work best will help government plan and prioritise its support going forward.”
“The British Business Bank has performed well against its objectives. Government now needs to think carefully about the role it wants the Bank to play in the future, particularly after the UK leaves the European Union,” he concluded.