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Westminster Column

This is my first View from the House of 2011 so a Happy New Year to all Observer readers.

In this week’s column I thought I’d take the opportunity to update you on an issue that many of my constituents are writing to me about: Government support for small businesses.

On 5 January the Minister for Business and Enterprise, published “Bigger, better business: Helping small firms start, grow and prosper.” A document that sets out in great detail the reforms to the way in which Government ensures that start ups and existing Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) can access the information and business advice they need.

The changes include:

  • Online business information and tools tailored to each business’ needs
  • A national contact centre to help businesses who cannot find the information they need on the web or who are not connected to the internet
  • Help for start-ups, including the New Enterprise Allowance
  • A network of at least 40,000 experienced business mentors offering practical advice
  • Business Coaching for Growth (formerly known as Growth Hubs) backing high growth SMEs, to enable them to realise their potential.

These proposals are part of a broader programme to free enterprise and help small firms grow and prosper. A summary of the help available from across Government can also be found at the back of the document which is available online at www.bis.gov.uk. Type the publication’s name – “Bigger, better business” – into the search bar to locate it.

The issue of small businesses which are experiencing problems securing a bank loan continues to be a real worry in Sutton. Microenterprises should refer to the Lending Code available at www.lendingstandardsboard.org.uk for an outline of the minimum level of service they can expect when seeking finance. All the major UK high street banks are subscribers to this Code. Larger businesses should check the British Bankers’ Association’s 6 Lending Principles.

In instances where these commitments are not kept businesses can use the banks’ individual complaint procedures (found on their websites). If the matter remains unresolved, microenterprises have the option of taking the complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

In addition, I will always take up with the Chief Executive of the relevant bank the case of any business in Sutton where credit becomes unavailable. This is often the most effective way to raise a local case. Mark Prisk MP, the Minister for Business and Enterprise, is also keen to continue to closely scrutinise bank lending and I will ensure that he is kept informed of any related instances that occur in Sutton Coldfield.

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