Budget 2021: Chancellor to unveil £520m help to grow scheme for small firms

1 March 2021, 22:31 | Updated: 1 March 2021, 23:12

The Chancellor is to launch a £520 million initiative to support small UK businesses
The Chancellor is to launch a £520 million initiative to support small UK businesses. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Chancellor is to launch a £520 million initiative to support small UK businesses with training and software in this week's Budget.

Rishi Sunak said the Help to Grow scheme could help 130,000 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) become more productive by providing access to some of the UK's top business schools.

The Treasury said that firms will receive expert technology advice and discounted software, as it aims to spark innovation as the UK plots its recovery out of the pandemic.

Mr Sunak 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."

Under the "plan for jobs", Mr Sunak will also commit £126 million to create 40,000 additional traineeships in England and offer cash incentives for employers who take on an apprentice to £3,000 in the Budget.

Read more: Denying NHS workers pay rise in Budget 'kick in teeth', Labour says

The Government said that, under the new scheme, firms will have access to digital and management services.

Its digital offer will create a new online platform to offer free advice on technology that will help businesses to save time, reduce costs, and reach more customers, the Treasury said.

Eligible SMEs will also be given vouchers to get up to 50% off the purchase of new productivity-enhancing software, up to £5,000 each.

Read more: Rishi Sunak says UK economy will face 'enormous strains' post-lockdown

Read more: Failing to support people in self-isolation 'biggest risk to the roadmap'

The Chancellor will also provide more than £400 million of additional support for the badly hit culture sector.

Rishi Sunak is preparing to hand out £408 million to help museums, theatres and galleries in England to reopen once coronavirus restrictions start to ease in the coming months.

Many theatres have not been able to open their doors since March 2020.

In a slew of pre-Budget teasers, Treasury officials also said Mr Sunak will use his fiscal package on Wednesday to give a "significant chunk" of a £300 million sports recovery package to cricket as fans prepare to return to stadiums this summer.

Read more: Crowds flock to parks and beaches despite Covid-19 warning from top scientists

Over the weekend, it was announced that hundreds of thousands of business hit hardest by Covid-19 will able to get 'restart' grants as part of a £5 billion scheme to help them reopen as lockdown is eased.

Rishi Sunak will announce booster payments worth up to £6,000 per premises to help pubs, restaurants, shops and other non-essential retailers welcome back customers and trade safely as measures are gradually lifted.

Hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms, will be eligible for up to £18,000 per premises as they reopen in the Spring

The Treasury estimates 230,000 firms will be eligible for the higher band, which will be awarded based on their rateable value, and 450,000 shops will also be able to apply.

The £5 billion is targeted at England, but the devolved nations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive an extra £794 million in funding through the Barnett formula.