According to the latest SME Finance Monitor survey, net lending to smaller businesses has recovered substantially since 2014 and businesses are increasingly finding that banks are more willing to lend. In relation to Government assistance, we have provided finance help to small businesses—for example, through 32,800 start-up loans worth £176 million. Turning to the self-employed, Julie Deane, the founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company, is currently carrying out an independent review of self-employment, and I am sure we will welcome her recommendations. We of course need to do more to make sure that everybody knows about the brilliance of the financial tech sector.
I thank the Minister for that detailed answer. On small businesses, she will be aware that the Secretary of State visited the west midlands last Friday, accompanied by the Coventry and Warwickshire growth hub. He visited a small company near his constituency, Ricor Ltd—a company that is indicative of why the Government should maintain their positive support for business. Will she assure me, and the business hubs that provide such a good link with those businesses, that that will be the case?
I understand from the Secretary of State that that is an excellent company. I agree that these things are really important. It is also incredibly important that we encourage small businesses to consider alternative sources of funding. That is why the FinTech sector is doing so well. We need to get out information about crowdfunding, peer-to-peer, angels and so on, especially at a local level.
The Minister will be aware that in my constituency, many people go into self-employment and start a small business as one of their first steps into employment. That means that they are unlikely to be familiar with the system. What steps will she take to ensure that people are aware of the options open to them, particularly once the review of self-employment funding finance is completed?
Of course, we offer people information. The British Business Bank puts together the various funds that are available to small businesses. One reason why I am in favour of the great devolution deals is that they take that sort of activity right down to the local level. The coming together of local authorities, businesses and local enterprise partnerships enables us to get this sort of information out. The Federation of Small Businesses and the chambers of commerce also have a huge role to play, because they do excellent work, often at a local level.