This year’s Top 100 SME survey coincides with the publication of Lord Heseltine’s report “No stone unturned: in pursuit of growth” in which he sets out his strategy for wealth creation.
While doubtless a good proportion of owner-managers may not agree with Heseltine’s political views, there are a number of key themes in the report which I’m sure will resonate with our SMEs.
Chief among these is what is termed as “localism” – in short, devolving resources and responsibilities to those who understand the particular strengths and problems of a region or city. Though this is by no means a new idea (many will remember Urban Development Corporations) there are good reasons to be confident that further devolvement of economic decision-making can only be to the benefit of SMEs.
Central to the success of the localism agenda will be the Sheffield City Region LEP. While arguably getting off to a slower start than we all might have hoped, the SCR LEP has had some very notable successes in the last month in tackling some of the fundamental challenges faced by SMEs. These include securing £25 million of investment from the Regional Growth Fund and a similar amount again for the City Deal programme which aims to create more than 4,000 new apprentices by 2016.
As Sheffield City Region’s largest firm of chartered accountants, BHP is well placed to understand the particular challenges faced by owner-managed businesses.
In addition to access to capital and the availability of skilled employees, another consistent concern we hear from our clients is the impact of red tape on their businesses.
The key for localism will be not only to deliver intelligently targeted investment but to do it without the bureaucracy that has blighted many Whitehall-led initiatives.