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A letter to Prime Minister David Cameron

Date 26th May 2016 //
Author Adam Tavener
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Adam Tavener, founder of the Alternative Business Funding collaboration, writes an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron on why SME access to finance needs to be a priority for the new Government.

Dear Prime Minister

Firstly, may I congratulate you on your election victory which, quite apart from confounding the pundits, also led to some real drama with the unveiling of the BBC’s exit poll immediately pointing to an upset the moment the polling stations had closed.

Amongst other issues a central plank of your campaign message was that the Conservatives had, in coalition, turned the economy around and were delivering real growth. Moreover, your assertion was that you, the party of economic competence, could be trusted to continue to do so.

Good. We all know that you cannot deliver better public services and lower taxes without a vibrant private sector delivering quality jobs and generating healthy revenues for the Exchequer. This was fully understood by the coalition government who pragmatically, proactively and laudably went to great lengths to ensure that the SME part of the private sector, above all others, received the structural and legislative support it needed to thrive, most urgently in the area of access to finance.

This strategy ultimately found its way onto the statute books with the enactment of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment bill. A key part of this Act is the mechanism by which major banks have to refer SMEs they have declined for funding to suitable alternative funders. This aspect of the legislation was energetically supported by the former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the immensely able and respected Dr Vince Cable.

Although possibly not as headline grabbing as some aspects of Government policy, this act, and the bank referrals part of it, are hugely important to the long term health of the economy and if delivered in a sensible and determined fashion, will serve to permanently rebalance and derisk the way SMEs access growth finance. I don’t need to tell you, Prime Minister, that we are talking about somewhere approaching 50 per cent of the economy. That’s billions upon billions in economic output that can be secured by carrying through an existing piece of legislation to the point of delivery.

As I have been, and continue to be, involved in the Treasury and BIS working party whose aim is to turn this legislation into functioning reality, I am aware that there is some way to go until it is delivering in the real world. I am also aware that incoming ministers may well have their own agenda priorities and that the delivery timetable might slip as a result. This would be a shame since the social and economic impact of this rather elegant law will be profound, yet the cost to the taxpayer negligible.

So, Prime Minister, as the founder of the Alternative Business Funding collaboration, I would ask you to ensure that you and your ministers continue to prioritise the SME access to finance issue and see the bank referrals part of the SBE&E Act into the shape it needs to be to start delivering real results as soon as practically possible. I know that all of my colleagues in the Alternative Business Funding collaboration would agree that this needs to be high up on the list of priorities for your new Government.

We will, of course, be more than willing to continue to work with your ministers and their officials to make this a reality just as soon as we all can.

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