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The British Business Bank overseas the provision of Government lending and investment programmes, delivering direct to small businesses or delivering to them through third parties. Established in 2014, it aims to increase the supply of finance available to smaller businesses. It is a publicly funded development bank, owned by the Department for Business and Trade, but with operational independence. It does not operate as a direct competitor to commercial banks.

Lending and direct finance

There are several lending and direct finance schemes available to UK businesses.

The Government’s Start Up Loans scheme offers personal loans, mentoring and advice to entrepreneurs.

The Recovery Loan Scheme is a Government-backed loan scheme designed to support access to finance for UK businesses.

The ENABLE Programmes support financial institutions to lend to smaller businesses by using Government-backed guarantees. They include a scheme for smaller housebuilder finance.

The Government-funded Help to Grow: Management Course offers leadership training and individual mentoring to small and medium-sized businesses, delivered by business schools accredited by the Small Business Charter.


The SME Brexit Support Fund, which ran from February to June 2021, offered financial support to businesses that were new to importing and exporting, to help with training and advice.

Investment funding

The Government offers several schemes designed to encourage equity investment, which is the process of raising capital through the sale of shares in a company. Some schemes work by offering tax relief to investors.

The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, a tax-based venture capital scheme, offers tax reliefs to individual investors who buy new shares in an early-stage company. The Enterprise Investment Scheme does the same for a start-up company. Venture Capital Trusts encourage indirect investment in a range of unquoted smaller, higher-risk trading companies, in return for tax reliefs.

Enterprise Capital Funds raise venture capital for early-stage small businesses with potential for long-term growth, combining private and public money to make investments. The Angel CoFund makes equity investments via syndicates of ‘business angels’ (a group of investors), to support businesses with strong growth potential.

Public procurement

Successive Governments have introduced measures to encourage start-ups and small businesses to bid for public sector contracts. The current Government pledged to continue this in its 2019 manifesto. The Contracts Finder offers information about Government contracts worth over £10,000 and there are dedicated public sector procurement websites for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Small Business Commissioner

The Small Business Commissioner service was launched in December 2017. The Small Business Commissioner is a UK-wide, independent public body, set up by statute. It deals with complaints from small businesses about unfair payment practices in the private sector, including late payment.

General advice and information

A Government-run business support helpline provides information about funding and other sources of help for new and existing businesses. There are separate helplines for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The helplines complement a Government business support portal, which offers a search engine for specific funding and advice schemes. Via the helplines, it is also possible to get help with tax, exporting, and advice on writing a business plan.

In England, Local Enterprise Partnerships and their local growth hubs also provide support to businesses. In August 2023, the Government announced that central government support (core funding) for LEPs is to be withdrawn from April 2024 and their functions transferred to local and combined authorities. 

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