Call for new SME hub to curb dominance of London

Hub proposal will go to Business Minister Anna Soubry. Picture: Getty
Hub proposal will go to Business Minister Anna Soubry. Picture: Getty
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Britain needs a hub for a healthy small and medium-sized business sector outside London, with the skewed focus on the English capital currently a risk to the economy, a new report out today says.

The report by insurance giant AXA says smaller businesses face barriers to their growth from “economic and political London bias”.

Some of the main findings of the survey, Driving local business growth: Creating an ‘SME hub’, are that 89 per cent of respondents say creating an SME hub outside London would be beneficial to the economy. Nearly a third, 31 per cent, said it would be “extremely beneficial”.

A total of 71 per cent say the concentration of businesses in London is a risk to the wider economy, and 60 per cent of SMEs say their geographical location impacts their ability to borrow at competitive levels from banks. The insurer said Birmingham emerged as the most popular location for a new regional hub, followed by Manchester.

Amanda Blanc, chief executive of AXA’s commercial business, said: “It’s clear from what these SME leaders have told us, across the country, that there is a widespread fear the economy is not only unbalanced in favour of London, but that businesses operating outside the capital are at a competitive disadvantage.”

She said a new business hub could take the form of a national business advice centred on legal, financial and regulatory issues.

AXA calls in the report for Anna Soubry MP, the new Minister for Business and Enterprise, to ensure the issue is brought to Parliament’s attention. Axa also recommends a specialist taskforce to devise the hub.