The Help to Grow: Management scheme, which was introduced to help small business productivity, could be axed as part of a Whitehall spending review.
The Government’s business department is identifying business support schemes that could be done away with to meet cost-saving demands from the Treasury.
A business department source said: “[We are] reviewing all those schemes to judge how effective they have been and if they’re worth continuing with,” according to The Times.
Sunak launched the scheme back in 2021 when he was Chancellor to arm the directors of 30,000 businesses with tools to help them plan, prioritise and enact business operations more effectively. Courses run over 12 weeks and were originally led by business schools (this was later changed to being run by volunteers) over the next three years. The majority of the cost of the course (90 per cent) is taxpayer-funded, with businesses paying the remaining £750.
Help to Grow has ran into problems because of its eligibility criteria, primarily that businesses had to have five or more employees to register, excluding sole traders and businesses who rely on freelancers and contractors, in the process. This has since been changed to one employee.
Help to Grow: Digital is also being reviewed. This scheme was updated earlier in the year to help 760,000 more small businesses with discounted tech support and software.
A total of 4,000 directors were expected to enroll by May this year but a source involved in the rollout said that numbers had accelerated since then. She was critical of the department for not marketing the scheme effectively to encourage registrations, however. Meanwhile, another source said that an uncertain trading environment has made it difficult for company directors to commit to the 12-week course.
The number of businesses signing up lagged way behind the Government’s 30,000 target, with only 2,500 benefiting and a further 800 signed up as of May 2022.