Rishi Sunak to pledge £520m to small and medium-sized businesses to help rev up recovery

Rishi Sunak criticised over furlough scheme by Mike Graham

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In his Budget statement tomorrow, the Chancellor will launch a Help To Grow scheme to encourage firms to innovate. And his plans to kick-start the economy are expected to be aided by better-than-expected growth forecasts for this year. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is tipped to confirm the UK will undergo its fastest economic surge for more than 50 years during 2021.

The Chancellor said: “Brilliant small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of our economy – creating jobs and prosperity.

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

Mr Sunak is expected to announce ­billions more in business support including extending furlough.

The Chancellor has promised to tell the country about the hit public finances have taken because of the pandemic and has signalled the need for tax rises.

However, his position will be bolstered by better-than-anticipated data from the OBR. 

The watchdog is expected to estimate the Treasury’s deficit at £350billion, rather than nearly £400billion forecast last November, due to better than expected growth.

Treasury officials describe the Help To Grow initiative as a “shot in the arm” for businesses hit by the lockdown that could add billions to economic growth.

It will offer world-leading management training based on the prestigious Master of Business Administration qualification as well as ­provide expert technology advice and ­discounted computer software.

An estimated 130,000 enterprises are expected to benefit from the scheme, which will open access to some of the country’s finest business schools.

Officials say studies show that boosting the performance of small and medium-sized firms to match that of Germany and other ­competitor countries could add around £100billion to the UK economy.

The Government will also set up an online ­service offering free advice on technology that will help businesses save time, reduce costs and reach more customers.

Eligible companies will get 50 percent off the purchase of new productivity-enhancing software – worth up to £5,000 each.

The Treasury says top technology can increase sales by around 18 percent per employee over three years.

Firms will be offered 50 hours of tuition for managers with support from a mentor.

Other expected measures include a new visa route to attract the best global talent.

PM Boris Johnson said: “We can have a strong, jobs-led recovery that could be much stronger than pessimists have been saying.”

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