UK government software subsidy scheme is an unsurprising failure so far

Pounds sterling
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The UK government's Help to Grow: Digital Scheme has so far spent less than 7% of its £300 million budget since the program launched in 2021, a report has claimed.

The program was set up by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to offer software subsidies for small businesses that were struggling to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department for Business and Trade originally said that the program had spent £31.4 million, however a subsequent review of the data suggested that the actual spending is closer to £20 million.

The Digital Scheme was originally marketed as an opportunity for 100,000 businesses to receive software discounts. In 2021, Sunak told the House of Commons, “With the pandemic, many businesses have moved online.

“This has been a challenge, but we want to turn it into an opportunity. We're going to help small businesses develop digital skills by giving them free expert training and a 50 percent discount on new productivity-enhancing software worth up to £5,000 each.”

However, one year later the 2022 budget announced that the scheme would be coming to an early end, after less than 1,000 businesses had signed up for the scheme. A report by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that the range of software offered to SMEs proved to be too narrow.

The scheme offered SMEs a £5,000 voucher to be used as a discount on business software, and the government originally predicted a rather optimistic use of its budget, expecting £50 million to be spent in 2021/22, £115 million in 2022/23, and a final £130 million in 2023/24.

When the scheme was announced to be ending early, a government statement said, “Despite a marketing campaign, expanded eligibility of the scheme, and positive feedback from users of the scheme, it did not have the takeup expected.”

In the spring budget announcement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt predicted that the UK was on track to become “the world’s next Silicon Valley” after unveiling a number of extensions and new schemes to help small businesses grow in the face of a potential recession.

Via The Register

More from TechRadar Pro

Benedict Collins
Staff Writer (Security)

Benedict Collins is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro covering privacy and security. Benedict is mainly focused on security issues such as phishing, malware, and cyber criminal activity, but also likes to draw on his knowledge of geopolitics and international relations to understand the motivations and consequences of state-sponsored cyber attacks. Benedict has a MA in Security, Intelligence and Diplomacy, alongside a BA in Politics with Journalism, both from the University of Buckingham.