Wales

Federation of Small Businesses' worry on Finance Wales

Small companies are in danger of being overlooked despite their importance to the Welsh economy, according to some business leaders.

The Welsh government says Finance Wales, which it set up to invest in smaller traders, can now also invest in larger businesses.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is concerned there is not enough focus on small companies.

But ministers say it will not affect funds available to smaller businesses.

Finance Wales will no longer be restricted on the size of the business in which it can invest.

Almost 95% of companies in Wales employ fewer than nine people and the FSB is concerned there is not enough focus on providing financial support and expertise to them.

Mark Young, who owns Denbigh Chocolate Shop and is the vice-chair of the town's business group, told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics he has found it almost impossible to get credit from banks.

"In the past, if you went to a bank with a sensible business plan, you got the borrowings," he said.

"It was very accessible and it was affordable. It was quite challenging in the late 80s and early 90s but I actually think it's harder now to run a business and it's actually impossible to get any funding for a small business."

According to the latest FSB figures, proportionally more Welsh companies are applying for loans than any other part of the UK, with more and more finding finance unobtainable or unaffordable.

Grassroots

Iestyn Davies, of the FSB, told the programme: "There's no doubting the political commitment at Westminster or in Cardiff on solving the problem of financing for small businesses, but the real question is, how do you deliver that?

"Really the only mechanism you've got in Wales is Finance Wales.

"It seems to be doing a good job for funding buy-outs or large capital acquisitions and money going into businesses but it doesn't seem to be doing that good in reaching the grassroots businesses, the small businesses or micro-businesses on the ground."

Finance Wales has welcomed the decision to allow lending to larger Welsh businesses.

Image caption Business with fewer than nine staff - like this market stall - make up about 95% of Wales' companies

It says it has a successful track record over the last decade of backing growing companies, including investing £27m in the last financial year.

A Welsh government spokesman said: "The decision to enable Finance Wales to invest in larger companies is intended to provide extra flexibility for support if ever necessary.

"It will in no way affect the funds available to Finance Wales to invest in Welsh SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises].

"The European-backed £150m Wales JEREMIE Fund remains the Welsh government's main source of commercial finance for eligible SMEs - and only SMEs.

"The scheme is complemented by the new £40m Wales SME Investment Fund, also managed by Finance Wales, to cater for Welsh SMEs that are not eligible for JEREMIE investment, including firms selling their goods and services to consumers rather than businesses."

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