For small business owners or those looking to start up a small business, financial support is paramount for boosting business growth.
As Google searches for "Small Business Grants" surpass 3.9k a month, the uncertainty of where business owners can access additional funding for their business, as well as rising inflation can put pressure on enterprise owners.
However, a record number of new businesses were registered on Companies House last year. In fact, 93 businesses were started every hour in the first half of the year and the support offered by councils in the last year is making it easier for enterprise owners to set up their businesses.
To better understand how councils are supporting SMEs, we at Dojo sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to councils across the UK. We asked how much money each has dedicated to funded programs that support SME businesses, specifically in the past year. We then collated the data to reveal the most supportive councils for small business support, as well as the appropriate resources for business owners if they require financial aid.
|Rank||Location||County council||Total amount of money dedicated to funded programs in the past year|
|1||Stirlingshire, Scotland||Falkirk District Council||£954,000|
|2||Essex, England||Braintree District Council||£555,877|
|3||Oxfordshire, England||South Oxfordshire District Council||£447,258|
|4||Norfolk, England||Broadland District Council||£428,000|
|5||Worcestershire, England||Wychavon District Council||£374,744|
|6||Oxfordshire, England||Vale of White Horse District Council||£372,907|
|7||Essex, England||Uttlesford District Council||£314,333|
|8||Worcestershire, England||Malvern Hills District Council||£228,000|
|9||Leicestershire, England||Oadby & Wigston District Council||£154,216|
|10||West Sussex, England||Chichester District Council||£103,895|
|11||Suffolk, England||Babergh District Council||£100,000|
|12||Suffolk, England||Mid-Suffolk District Council||£100,000|
|13||Derbyshire, England||Bolsover District Council||69,936|
|14||Leicestershire, England||Harborough District Council||£69,386|
|15||Hampshire, England||New Forest District Council||£34,000|
|16||Nottinghamshire, England||Ashfield District Council||£19,000|
The data revealed that the Falkirk District Council in the central lowlands of Scotland has provided the most support for local businesses in the past year with a total of £954,000 dedicated to funding programmes that have supported 232 start-ups through their independent Business Gateway scheme.
Falkirk District Council offers a programme called the Resilience Fund which supports business change and development following the COVID-19 pandemic. It was revealed that 530 businesses closed in Falkirk because of the pandemic so this fund has been a source of much needed support for business owners in the area.
The council also offers the Energy Efficiency Fund, which helps businesses embrace zero net and greenhouse gas ambitions targets, and the Digital Development Fund which helps businesses invest in technology to improve growth.
For business owners in Falkirk looking for council-funded grants, you can apply for grants online at Falkirk's council website.
The Braintree District Council in Essex is also one of the most supportive councils in the UK for supporting small businesses through grants with £555,877 dedicated to funding last year.
The council schemes included ‘Colbea’ which offers support for those opening start-ups in the area, as well as the BEST Growth Hub which focuses on tailored advice, training and advice on cost of living challenges for different sectors. Braintree District Council also offered the Let’s Do Business Group which offers grants up to £150,000 for medium-sized businesses in the area.
Braintree District Council offers a variety of schemes so in order to apply you’ll need to contact the appropriate body, the BEST Growth Hub can be contacted through their website and contact details for other grants offered by Braintree District Council can be found here.
The District Council of South Oxfordshire ranked as the third most supportive council in the UK for small businesses; last year they dedicated £447,258 for grants that helped 979 companies in the area.
They offered the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and the Rural England Prosperity Fund. As well as the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) which was put in place to support businesses in 2020 as part of the COVID-19 test and trace government scheme.
This fund has now been adapted to help businesses develop a response to the changing nature of the fallout from the pandemic and the challenges this poses to businesses, for example; significant drops in revenue, loss of staff, or impacted supply chains.
For businesses that fall under the South Oxfordshire District Council all grants and schemes can be applied for by contacting the council directly, all details can be found on their website.
In Norfolk, the Broadland District Council dedicated £428,000 to small businesses in the area making them the fourth most supportive council in the past year. They provided three grants including the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) and the Business Builder scheme.
Funded by the Norfolk Strategic Fund this was put in place to provide financial investment to boost business growth, as well as the local community through organisations like charities, community interest companies or local clubs.
Wychavon District Council in Worcestershire dedicated £374,744 to small businesses grants last year through three programmes that enabled 16 start-ups. The available programme is the Small Business Growth Grant which is for businesses with up to ten employees, to encourage growth and expansion of the local economy.
Wynchavon also offers the business Start-up Grant which awards funds to SME owners for training, investment in equipment, or reaching new markets such as overseas exports. There is also the Business Apprenticeship Grant which supports businesses to recruit individuals aged 16 to 24 into employment through an apprenticeship programme.
If you’re a small business owner or in the process of starting up an SME you could be eligible for a grant or loan from your local council. Council business grants most commonly come in the form of loans, grants or rate relief schemes and, depending on your location and the products or services that you offer, there are different types of aid available to support you.
A grant is a sum of money awarded to businesses in order to boost the growth and development of the business. Before the grants are given, councils will agree on the purpose of each grant and decide whether the funds go towards training or equipment. Grants awarded by councils do not have to be repaid.
For those with a growing team of employees that require training or additional resources, grants may be the most suitable option as councils can provide financial assistance as well as training and mentoring courses.
Whilst loans are similar to grants in the way of being a sum of money, those who take a loan out against their business for financial assistance or support will have to pay this sum of money back within a certain period of time and with interest.
For those looking to start up a new business or secure a venue for their business, loans may be better suited.
Rate relief schemes have been put in place to help business owners pay their rate bills. In regards to council grants, your local council will often offer a reduction on your council tax bill.
For businesses that operate on agricultural land and buildings, or buildings registered for public religious worship or church halls you can access rate relief schemes from your local council that can help reduce bill costs.
There are a few different places you can check to see if your business is eligible for grants including:
For more information, you can also check out Dojo’s guide to grants and schemes available in the UK. Keep in mind that each grant, loan and relief scheme will have set criteria your business will need to fulfil to be eligible.
We asked 81 district councils across the UK how much they supported small businesses in their area to which 16 replied. We asked them how many grants they provided and how much money they dedicated to these grants over the past financial year. They also gave us information about how many businesses they’ve helped set up in that area.