As the government prepares to release its levelling up white paper later this month, new research finds that more than half of SMEs are confused about the government’s plans.

This is felt most strongly among medium sized businesses, followed by small and microbusiness leaders. Younger business owners are the most confused about the levelling up agenda, compared to 40% of those aged over 55.

In addition to this, half of SMEs don’t know what levelling up the country means for their business. This comes at a time when business leaders are feeling the negative impact of regional inequalities.

Nearly six in 10 of SMEs believe regional inequalities are impacting their ability to attract investment, while a similar amount believe they are affecting their ability to hire highly skilled workers. Regional inequalities are also having a profound effect on SME finances, with 47% saying they are impacting the financial health of their business, and four in 10 saying regional differences are affecting their ability to get a loan from a bank.

Despite efforts from the government to address regional inequalities, the research found that SME leaders are largely pessimistic about the government putting its plans into action. Just three in 10 (30%) business leaders believe that the government will deliver on its levelling up agenda.

Chirag Shah, CEO, Nucleus Commercial Finance, that commissioned the research, said: “Despite the levelling up agenda being a central idea of Boris Johnson’s government, SME leaders remain confused about what this is and how it will impact their business. In addition, it’s particularly concerning that they feel regional inequalities are putting financial pressures on their business and are severely impacting their opportunities to succeed.

“As SMEs are the backbone of the economy and will play a crucial role in helping the UK recover from the impact of the pandemic, it is vital that the levelling up whitepaperprovides clarity for SMEs. This is an opportunity for the government to reinforce its commitment to level the playing field and put its promises into action.”

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