Stalham start-up owner criticises government enterprise support scheme

Hooked fishing tackle shop in Stalham. Owner Tim Tarrant. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Hooked fishing tackle shop in Stalham. Owner Tim Tarrant. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

A start-up owner has criticised a government scheme designed to help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground after it failed to help him secure finance.

Tim Tarrant sought help from the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) to kickstart his fishing tackle sales and rental business, Hooked, in Stalham.

But the former pet shop manager said he failed to secure a loan with his NEA business mentor's help – leaving him with just a £65-per-week allowance from the scheme to buy stock.

The 51-year-old said he was 'pushed' into taking the NEA allowance – which is offered at the point a business is ready to start trading – before he was ready.

Receiving the payments meant his jobseeker's allowance payments were stopped, and he claims this left him with less money to invest than his benefits would have provided.

However a DWP spokesman said the NEA payments were designed as a comparable replacement for employment benefits.

Mr Tarrant, from Hickling, said: 'It started off alright. We had a few meetings and they got my business plan sorted out, and it all went downhill from there. They started giving me bad advice.

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'I was turned down by three loan companies – one said it was about the affordability of repayments, and another said it was about my credit score, which my NEA adviser said was fine.'

Despite the lack of funds Mr Tarrant opened his business on July 10, six weeks after he started receiving his NEA payments, and is already close to breaking even.

He said: 'The business has been picking up. I actually made my rent last month.

'I'm still supposed to be dealing with the NEA, but I haven't heard from my adviser since the loan fiasco back in June.'

The NEA offers those starting a new business up to 52 weeks of support from a business mentor and a weekly allowance paid for up to 26 weeks, up to a total of £1,274.

The DWP said there was no evidence the rejection of a loan would lead to a person losing their mentoring support, nor was there a link between the loan application and the mentoring.

A DWP spokesman said: 'When a customer is accepted onto the NEA, they are supported by a mentor for up to 12 weeks whilst they develop a business plan. During this period they remain on benefits and have contact with their Jobcentre Plus work coach.'