Investment in infrastructure, guarantees on funding to replace the EU and strengthening of the Northern Powerhouse project are top of the Budget agenda for small businesses in the region.
Small businesses from across the North West are calling for effective integration of public bodies, greater infrastructure investment and the creation of a Council of the North in a new report.
The report by the Federation of Small Businesses, An Entrepreneurial North, highlights the benefits of moving to a pan-regional small business support model as part of the Northern Powerhouse.
The five Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the region are receiving more than £2bn in the six years to 2021, with 45p in every £1 coming from European Union sources.
The report suggests that Government plans to bring together different funding streams into a single UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) was an opportunity to more effectively integrate small business support services. Projects of particular importance are electrification of the Manchester-Bolton-Preston rail line and widespread expansion of park and ride facilities.
Gary Lovatt, FSB Lancashire and Cumbria chairman, said: “We need cast iron guarantees about EU funding post-Brexit. Firms across the North West are benefitting from EU support to the tune of millions every year.
“One thing’s for sure, we won’t have a Northern Powerhouse unless that money’s replaced. Our LEPs and Growth Hubs are doing some fantastic work in supporting small firms across the region.
“However, we do have some challenges around awareness of what these bodies offer and duplication of services. Moving to a pan-regional model could help tackle these issues.
“The success of the Northern Powerhouse starts with having the right infrastructure in place. We need greater focus on the local road routes and rail lines that matter to small businesses. With LEPs, local authorities and metro mayors all working together to deliver the Northern Powerhouse, it makes sense to have a Council of the North to advise on pan-regional activity.”