Budget 2021: £520m boost to SME digital productivity

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out the government's post-pandemic tax and spending plans including a £520m scheme to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access better digital communications.

Under the Help to Grow scheme, the government said it would encourage more companies to adopt digital technology, “opening up opportunities for smaller companies that larger businesses can afford”.

The chancellor said: “Our brilliant SMEs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and generating prosperity, so it’s vital they can access the tools they need to succeed.

“Help to Grow will ensure they are embracing the latest technology and management training, fuelling our plan for jobs by boosting productivity in all corners of the UK.”

However, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chair Mike Cherry warned that a lack of access to 5G for businesses could limit the effectiveness of the scheme.

“Crucially with all digital schemes, it is a reminder that for many, access to fast high-speed broadband remains a premium depending where you go in the country,” said Cherry.

“We cannot allow poor infrastructure through a lack of broadband or 5G to prevent small firms from getting a foothold onto important schemes like this. We have argued that the UK’s productivity challenge needed practical changes to help small businesses to improve their operations and drive efficiency and growth. This means more of a ‘new-to-firm’ approach for innovation, such as helping small businesses access things such as the cloud where currently less than half use cloud services.

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