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ICAEW raises business support measures with government

22 April 2020: now is the time for bold government action when it comes to providing support for SMEs and providing clear communications around the various loan schemes on offer, ICAEW has told a committee of government ministers.

Last week, David Petrie, Head of Corporate Finance, attended a Business Finance Council meeting as part of ICAEW’s ongoing engagement with government ministers.

This group, which is chaired by Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), meets regularly to discuss how to assist businesses and ensure the continued supply of finance. John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Paul Scully, the Small Business Minister were also present.

During the conference call we welcomed measures taken by the banks such as extending overdrafts, and acknowledged the support they had provided to their existing customers. However, we argued that now is the time for bold government action when it comes to providing support for SMEs. Clearer communications around the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), and the announcement of the government’s new scheme for larger businesses – the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) – were also discussed.

Petrie highlighted the importance of further support for businesses, perhaps in the form of a grants-based system.

Attendees highlighted various teething problems with CBILS and asked for improved communications from government and lenders to help businesses understand the different support options available to them. John Glen acknowledged that many SMEs have not borrowed before, meaning they were struggling to access the loan system efficiently. The Secretary of State agreed more communications aimed at businesses were needed to dispel myths surrounding the schemes and signposted additional schemes to be announced shortly.

The government has launched a new online platform to help businesses access financial support during the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus business support finder tool on GOV.UK asks business owners to fill out an online questionnaire, which can take minutes to complete, and they will then be directed to a list of all the financial support for which they may be eligible.

For the latest news, insights and guidance for accountants on the COVID-19 outbreak, visit ICAEW’s dedicated Coronavirus Hub.