Agenda item

Supporting Small Businesses and Assistance for Start Ups

To receive a report on the support and assistance currently being provided to small businesses and start-ups; the issues and challenges facing these businesses; and whether further support could be provided.  

Minutes:

59.1      David Owen, Director of Economy and Environment, took the presentation as read but presented a brief summary.

 

59.2      Business survival rates across Gloucestershire were higher than the South West average and the England average but business birth rates were lower. In response to a question about ‘only’ 60% of businesses surviving beyond three years, it was explained that businesses that had sold were not included in that figure and that certain short term companies had a natural churn. Unemployment was still low at 2.3% and this was attributed to the work of the Growth Hub and SAGE programme.

 

59.3      Funding was moving away from European funding which allowed for more flexibility with interventions for start-up businesses. This flexibility, particularly in allowing many-to-one interventions, in the SAGE programme had meant that many more businesses had been supported than previously.

 

59.4      A member asked for more clarity as to the future of the funding. It was explained that Growth Hub funding from next year was under discussion but other avenues of support were being explored. Growth Hub core funding from central government for 2022/23 dropped by 50% but the funding allocation for 2023/24 was not yet known. Funding via the UK Shared Prosperity Fund was under the control of District Councils and those discussions were ongoing.

 

59.5      Members raised the issue of high interest rates impeding funding for businesses. It was explained that the Growth Hub was exploring options but it was likely that more could be done. In particular, loans for capital purchase were being explored by the Growth Hub to support businesses to scale up once they were past the start-up phase.

 

59.6      It was also explained that there was some spending on marketing the Growth Hub and that awareness rates amoung the business community were high. Having a physical location meant that the Growth Hub in Gloucestershire had more visibility than in most other counties.

 

59.7      A member asked for clarification over the future plan to shift away from jobs and focus on what businesses were doing for sustainability and social value. The officer explained that this shift in strategy had been planned based on what businesses had been asking for from Growth Hub. Businesses had been particularly asking for help with shifting to Net Zero and for guidance on how to contribute socially amoungst the community.

 

59.8      In response to a question on sector focus, it was explained that the Growth Hub generally wanted to support businesses of all different types though each of the Growth Hub centres had a speciality. The Growth Hub planned to open in Cheltenham this year was given as an example which had a speciality in cyber. The Royal Agricultural University was another example that specialised in agri-tech support provided through the Growth Hub.

 

59.9      It was explained that inward investment contributed roughly 10% of new jobs growth in Gloucestershire. Inward investment had been driven by a programme that was European funded and this funding was due to end at the end of the financial year. Concern was raised over the risk to the 795 jobs created as part of this programme but the officer was confident that they would find a way to support those jobs despite the end of funding.

 

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