Rory has launched a new cross-party initiative to help small local businesses attract support and investment. Rory launched an enquiry into the problems small businesses and start-ups face attracting finance at the end of last year. He has now completed the first stage of the enquiry, and last week presented two proposals to a cross-party group of Cumbrians from business, the financial sector, the voluntary sector and local government.

The first proposal would look to create a simple mechanism for local savers to directly support local businesses, building on the already successful ‘Funding Circle’ platform for peer-to-business lending. The project would look to replicate the success of similar SME lending support schemes already being rolled out by other local authorities, like the ‘Local Business Lending Partnership’ run by Lancashire County Council, which helped to catalyse over £2m of loans to Lancashire companies during its first 9 months of operation.

The second proposal would setup a more comprehensive structure that would complement and expand upon existing provision for local small business finance already in place across Cumbria. Working closely with groups like the Cumbria Business Growth Hub, and Enterprise Answers – Cumbria’s only Community Development Finance Institution – the scheme would not only provide customised funding solutions for Cumbrian SME’s, but also look to strengthen the local business support network.

The seminar provided a starting point for a broader consultation on small business finance, to which both local borrowers and local investors will be encouraged to contribute. Rory Stewart has now set up two online surveys, one for borrowers and one for investors, which will serve as an important tool in identifying the areas in which local businesses are being failed by existing financial provision, and in understanding the extent to which local investors have an interest in providing commercial support. The feedback from these surveys will help shape the design of any final Investment Fund for Cumbrian SMEs.

Speaking after the event Rory said : “I am very excited to take the next step in our Cumbrian cross-party mission to support small local businesses. We are beginning to get a real sense now of what we can do to create the best possible match between unfulfilled financing needs and potential funding sources for local SMEs. With the fantastic support of the local business community and Cumbria County Council, I am confident we can create something of real value to the thousands of small businesses across the county.”

“The surveys we have setup will now play a very important role in helping us determine the precise structure of the Business Investment Fund we hope to launch later this year. Any feedback is invaluable, and I would strongly encourage any small business which has experienced financing difficulties, or any investor with an interest in the local economy, to join in and share their views.”

Any local business or investor eager to contribute to the Cumbria Business Finance Network survey, or to learn more about the project, can do so at:

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