Finance, funding and investment: what now for Lancashire businesses?
Mark Gibbons, Senior Access to Finance Specialist in Lancashire, looks at the current funding landscape for SMEs in the county.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the last 18 months have been one of the most challenging times for small and medium-sized business in recent memory. COVID-19 and subsequent enforced restrictions on businesses alongside the country’s exit from the EU have taken their toll on SMEs across Lancashire and the wider UK.
With business activity levels starting to increase since COVID restrictions have eased, the hope is that commercial revenues will slowly return to pre-pandemic levels.
However, many SMEs will have to deal with the legacy of decisions they were forced to take during the pandemic in order to survive lockdown. Much-needed Government support has started to reduce, with the furlough scheme having ended on 30 September 2021. Business owners have been forced to decide whether trade has returned to a level where furloughed jobs can be protected.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) came to an end in March 2021, and repayments on many loans due. Follow-on schemes such as Pay As You Grow will allow some businesses an element of latitude to: (1) extend the length of their loans from six to ten years; (2) make interestonly payments for up to six months (there is an option to use this up to three times throughout the loan period), or pause repayments entirely for up to six months.
The Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) was launched in April 2021, and in effect replaces CBILS and BBLS as the British Business Bank's main COVID-19 lending recovery vehicle. At this time there appears to a relatively slow uptake this scheme, though, and perhaps this is due to the level of debt that that already exists within the business community.
The kind of funding required by SMEs into 2022 will depend on how they fared during lockdown and what debt a business took on in order to survive, grow or simply to take advantage of preferable rates.
In part 2 of this blog we will be looking at alternatives to term debt funding options to fuel growth.
Our Access to Finance service offers bespoke funding support to SMEs in Lancashire, to help you to source funding and finance that will unlock growth for your business. There are no fees, commission or introduction costs.
Our dedicated finance specialists have expert knowledge of public and private sector funding channels, helping local businesses to identify the most relevant sources of funding and assisting in discussions with potential investors.