A helping hand for our flourishing firms

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NEW financial support for smaller companies could be on the way in as little as three months.

The Government is starting a new Business Bank and Andrew Van Der Lem, from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, explained more at the Hartlepool Mail-backed Tees Valley Business Summit.

Speaking to the Mail, he said it would be a Government-owned financial institution launching in the autumn with a clear directive to help smaller firms.

He added: “There are lots of clever ideas that have been tried in the past that did not work because they were not practical but this is interesting because it has a very clear target market.”

He said, while there may not be a branch on every high street, “hopefully there would be business bank products on every high street.”

He also praised the Catalyst Fund created by regeneration agency Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU).

It provides smaller firms from areas such as Hartlepool with funds to set up performance bonds which would help them unlock bigger contracts. Mr van der Lem said the Tees Valley scheme was so impressive, it could become a national initiative.

“It could be a potential pilot for something that could be rolled out nationally.”

He said financial institutions often thought of dealing with deep-rooted structural problems in small business as expensive,and tended to avoid them but the Business Bank would tackle them - only after the Government had gauged what companies needed. “We want to understand what they need. This is part of our preparation for setting up the business bank.”

TVU managing director Stephen Catchpole said: “We are keen for Hartlepool companies to grow and prosper. We have listened to the issues that they have and we shall do our best to help them solve those issues so that they are more competitive in the future.”

North East Finance group spokesman Andrew Mitchell said TVU had a “real opportunity” to make themselves the first port of call for business bosses.

And BBC business reporter Steph McGovern said: “This recovery looks different to past recessions. We have had growth in ten of the last 19 quarters.

“There are more jobs but it is partly explained by the growth in part-time jobs.”