The Forum
Miranda Dobson

Member Article

Chancellor meets with North West SMEs

The Chancellor George Osborne met with a panel of North West business owners last week to discuss issues affecting SMEs.

Businesses had the chance to raise their most pressing concerns to Mr Osborne at a round table event hosted by small business support group, The Forum.

Two Cheshire-based financial experts, accountant David Grundy from Knutsford’s Funding Store and Holmes Chapel-based Snowball Consulting, joined the panel, where they discussed the content of Mr Osborne recent Budget Announcement.

Mr Grundy commented: “More needs to be done by the government to communicate with the business world to explain why decisions are being taken.

“Too much is focussed on media messaging for wider consumption - this can only help and engage businesses in driving the economy forward, if business people all understand what as a country we are working towards.

“It was really encouraging that such an important influence on the UK economy was prepared to listen to business people about what is affecting them on-the-ground, and what ideas they have for the future. Frankly, there isn’t enough of this.

“There was a good deal of openness about the decisions that a chancellor has to take. It was refreshing that these explanations were made without any attempt to overly politicise them too.”

Topics raised to the Chancellor ranged from access to finance and what the Government was doing to help SMEs to Funding for Lending, business rates, the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Heseltine’s economic growth report.

Mr Grundy continued: “There was recognition of the excess complexity and process when businesses are looking to secure funding, and also the plethora of government initiatives, but there wasn’t much in the way of new ideas and approaches.

“Ways need to be sought to simplify the lending process, and support a return to lending by understanding the business, not spreadsheet checking and checklist ticking.”

Snowball Consulting’s Peter Black said the opportunity was “useful and rare” and felt the Chancellor was transparent with his answers on local, regional and national issues.

He said: “I asked questions around Funding for Lending and the banking/funding arena, and he confirmed he spent more time dealing with the banks and banking issues than on any other subject.

“He was interested to know the views of everyone round the table and their experience with banks and ability to fund their businesses.”

Phil Orford, The Forum’s chief executive who chaired the meeting, added: “Our members had lots of pertinent questions for George and he was happy to tackle them all head on.

“He gave some really interesting answers and our members all went away with a lot to digest. On business rates for example he was receptive to the idea of a freeze to help businesses in future.

“He was also really interested to hear thoughts on the weakness of the pound and how this was affecting small businesses who import and export.

“He also spoke about the regional LEPs, and stressed the need for strong local leaders to ensure areas could take advantage of proposed new powers.

“Overall it was a really constructive meeting and we’ll certainly be looking to host the Chancellor again in the future.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Miranda Dobson .

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