Liz Kendall MP: Government must take strong action to help small businesses
Earlier this week, Sir Peter Soulsby launched Leicester's economic action plan to boost growth, create new business and jobs, and tackle unemployment.
The plan will help bring new investment to our city, backing the efforts of existing companies and supporting businesses to start up and thrive.
It also aims to create 800 new apprenticeships and work placements, so young people get training and jobs, and businesses get the skills they need to expand and succeed.
Leicester's economic action plan is an ambitious strategy, and rightly so.
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Our city has enormous potential because of our central location, good transport links, our two fantastic universities and our thriving, entrepreneurial businesses, many of which have great links overseas.
I am working hard to back local businesses and support good jobs and training.
Last week, I met with local representatives from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Small and medium-sized companies are the backbone of Leicester's economy and crucial to our economic recovery.
The FSB told me one of the biggest problems small companies face is the banks' continuing reluctance to lend, both to existing businesses and new start-ups.
They are also concerned about the stagnation in our construction industry, which affects many local firms in the supply chain.
Leicester's economic action plan will make a real difference, but the Government should be doing far more to back our efforts. Ministers have made a lot of grand statements, but their words have failed to match the reality.
Last year's national infrastructure plan made big promises, claiming £250 billion would be spent on new projects.
Twelve months on, not a single one of the road-building projects has begun. Output in the construction industry actually fell by 2.5 per cent in the third quarter of this year.
The Government's new Funding for Lending Scheme should be increasing access to the money small and medium- sized businesses desperately need.
Yet, six months after the scheme was announced, lending to businesses has actually fallen, with many lenders tightening the terms and availability of loans and overdrafts for SMEs (small and medium enterprises).
The Prime Minister also promised his new start-up loans scheme would provide 2,500 loans to young entrepreneurs to help get their business ideas off the ground.
Only 43 loans have been granted so far.
The Government is out of touch with what is happening in the real economy. It should listen to businesses and take strong action, including in the Chancellor's statement next month.
A proper British investment bank would increase lending to small businesses and get major infrastructure projects more quickly off the ground.
Using the funds raised from the 4G mobile phone spectrum auction to build 100,000 affordable homes would boost the construction industry, help businesses in the supply chain and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
A one-year national insurance break for every small firm that takes on extra workers would make a big difference too.
These are the measures I'll be pressing for in the run-up to the Chancellor's statement and beyond.