Review of SME Funding Must Also Include Finance Wales; THEFSBVIEW WITH JANET JONES

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I'M sure every small and medium-sized business in Wales will be wondering what 2013 has in store. With business confidence amongst SMEs still weak compared to the rest of the UK we can take heart that some of our main campaigning issues in 2012 have already borne fruit. It's been a good start to the year for FSB Wales.

One of the key ways to give businesses the confidence to grow is to make it easier for them to access funds that are affordable. Recent figures from the FSB's Voice of Small Business Index showed that 58.8% found new credit to be unaffordable and 48% of small enterprises in the country had had their credit application rejected.

With Wales having the highest share of any region or nation within the UK of small businesses applying for credit it's obvious that this issue has merited its place as being high on the FSB's agenda. We in Wales have outlined our position in a series of conferences and research papers and recently co-hosted a conference with the Institute of Welsh Affairs on the issue of securing alternative finance for SMEs.

We were quick therefore to welcome the Welsh Government's announcement that an independent review will be set up into the availability of funding for SME's in Wales, led by Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, Director of Enterprise and Innovation at the University of Wales. The review will seek to establish the extent to which the high street banks are meeting the needs of SMEs in Wales and what are the merits of alternative sources of funding. We at FSB Wales have been fully supportive of the Welsh Government's initiatives to offer such sources of funding through Finance Wales, so it is imperative that the terms of this independent review be widened to consider the success of Finance Wales in delivering this support. I have expressed previously in this column my concerns about its adequacy as a mechanism for channelling funds to business.

Our own research shows patchy levels of awareness amongst our members of what it can offer. I hope the independent review takes this on board.

Our campaigning influence on this however is now to be seen across the political spectrum.

We were encouraged to see an added dimension to the debate with the recent launch of the Welsh Conservatives' Invest Wales proposals on government-funded local banks, and Plaid Cymru's plans for a Bank for Wales business bank. …