A Fylde coast business leader has called for whoever wins the election to commit to replacing the billions of pounds of support from the EU after Brexit.
The Federation of Small Businesses, which has its HQ at Squires Gate, is calling on the new Government to seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to radically reform England’s business support landscape.
It said the current EU funding dedicated to supporting small firms must be replaced to avoid the risk of an economic slowdown.
Its proposals include creating a streamlined Growth Fund for England before the Brexit process completes.
The Fund would bring together a domestic replacement for EU funding and the Single Local Growth Fund (SLGF). The EU has dedicated £3.6bn to developing the competitiveness of UK small firms for the funding round ending in 2020.
There is currently no regional development spend budgeted at the national level beyond 2021.
Blackpool-based Gary Lovatt, FSB regional chairman for Lancashire and Cumbria, said: “We know locally that many small businesses have benefitted from the support made available through EU-funded schemes and have been able to continue their growth journey as a result.
“The wider indirect economic benefits to other businesses not directly accessing support should not be underestimated and it is vital that we plug the gap to keep Lancashire and Cumbrian firms positive about the future and able to provide the jobs that we need in our communities.”
The FSB’s new report: ‘Reformed Business Funding: What small firms want from Brexit’ found that eight in ten (78 per cent) small firms have sought business support services in the last 12 months with 18 per cent of North West businesses responding have submitted applications for EU-funded schemes.
Of those that have applied for such schemes, the majority believe EU funding has had a positive impact on their business (68 per cent) and local area (64 per cent).
The research indicates that the benefits of EU funding are even broader, with many other businesses indirectly gaining from wider economic growth.
Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: “Small businesses across the country are staring into a business support black hole from 2021.
“This is a particularly pressing issue for the many small firms with growth ambitions and those in less economically developed regions.
“If the next Government is serious about developing an Industrial Strategy that delivers prosperity across all areas of England, it must replace EU funding dedicated to small business support and access to finance after we leave the EU.”