Although most firms needing finance will have to borrow some money from a commercial lender, numerous kinds of government assistance are also available. Some are directed exclusively at small businesses and others are more widely available. This article outlines some of the most commonly used sources which are relevant to property. It focuses on the assistance you may be given if your property is located in certain geographical areas. This is a complex field and if you need more detail, a comprehensive account is given in Industrial Aids in the UK 1985: a businessman’s guide by Mishka Bienkowski and Kevin Allen, published by the Centre for the Study of Public Policy, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. If you think you might be eligible for a particular form of assistance contact the organization concerned.
Some areas of the country with particular economic problems or high levels of unemployment have been designated by central government as ‘Assisted Areas’. This makes them eligible for regional policy assistance. Government regional policy divides the assisted areas into two groups. The first group comprises the development areas and here both regional development grants and regional selective assistance are available. In the second group, the intermediate areas (where unemployment is generally rather less severe), only regional selective assistance is available.
Regional development grants take the form of tax-free contributions towards capital expenditure, including premises. Generally the grants are intended for the manufacturing industry, but certain management, service, research and technical activities are also eligible. The rate of capital grant is set at 15 per cent, subject to a limit of £10,000 for each new job created (though this ceiling is not normally enforced for firms with less than 200 employees). Alternatively, labor-intensive projects can claim £3,000 for each job the investment creates. For every approved application both the capital and the job grants will be calculated and firms will automatically be paid whichever is the greater.
Regional selective assistance is discretionary but can be provided for projects which provide or safeguard jobs in any part of the assisted areas. It has to be demonstrated that the project would not take place on the basis proposed without government assistance. Relocation schemes are eligible, but only if there is an increase in jobs. The amount of assistance is negotiated on a case-by-case basis and is fixed at the minimum sum needed to bring about the benefits associated with the project. Regional selective assistance can be awarded in conjunction with a regional development grant but eligible expenditure is then assessed net of this grant.
For further information on regional policy and enquiries on eligibility you should contact your regional office of the Department of Trade and Industry. In Wales and Scotland you should contact the Welsh and Scottish Offices respectively.
Although English Estates’ prime concern is the direct provision of industrial and commercial premises in the assisted areas (and in certain rural locations), they can also arrange mortgages with financial institutions at favourable interest rates. For further details contact your nearest English Estates office.
BRITISH TECHNOLOGY GROUP
The British Technology Group was established to promote innovation and investment in British industry. Within the English assisted areas the Group has a wider role than its normal technological focus. It helps all companies which have growth potential and can improve their efficiency by modernisation or rationalisation. This can include money to finance premises if this is part of an overall improvement programme.
COUNCIL FOR SMALL INDUSTRIES IN RURAL AREAS
The Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas (CoSIRA) aims to improve the prosperity of small businesses in certain rural areas of England. Similar services are offered by the small business divisions of the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies and the Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU) in Northern Ireland. Loans for building capital are available to small firms in the manufacturing, service and tourism sectors. Loans are usually for up to 50 per cent of project costs, from a minimum of £250 to a maximum of £75,000.
NCB ENTERPRISE LTD
NCB Enterprise Ltd was set up by the National Coal Board in 1985 to ensure that new jobs were created in areas where pits have closed. The company is currently supported by funding of £20m. It can provide loans to small businesses which may be used for the purchase of premises. Alternatively, it can provide sites and premises for the small firm.
EUROPEAN COMMUNITY FUNDS
The European Investment Bank provides fixed-interest, medium-term loans to firms investing in projects which create or safeguard jobs in the assisted areas. The European Coal and Steel Community provides loans for companies located in areas where there have been coal or steel plant closures. Loans are for manufacturing and service companies which undertake projects that could, potentially at least, employ redundant coal and steel workers (though they do not have to do so in practice). Loans are for up to 50 per cent of the fixed asset costs of a project. Some grants are also available from the European Regional Development Fund. For further details about European money in England, contact your regional office of the Department of Trade and Industry. In Wales, contact the Welsh Development Agency at Pearl House, Greyfriars Road, Cardiff CF1 3XF. In Scotland, contact the Industry Department for Scotland, Alhambra House, 45 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6AT.