Regional Business Links to be Closed, Confirms BIS
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has welcomed confirmation of Government plans to scrap the regional Business Link network and place a greater emphasis on private sector support, writes Kate Horstead.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) confirmed that regional Business Link support would come to an end, alongside the closure of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), and that it would be shutting down the face-to-face advice service that Business Link currently provides.
No timetable for the closures has yet been confirmed. However, local authorities and business leaders have been asked for their feedback on the reforms of local enterprise support.
BIS added that the Businesslink.gov.uk website would remain, but that much of the focus of business support would shift to private sector provision.
“The vast majority of private businesses don’t use public services [for advice],”
said business and enterprise minister, Mark Prisk.
“The regional Business Links have spent too much time signposting and not enough time actually advising. We can deliver a lot more online and make better use of the private providers.
“[Our] approach will be spearheaded by an improved and simpler-to-use online service, accessible both on desktops and mobiles.”
Prisk also said existing private sector business support agencies — such as those linked to their local Chamber of Commerce — would take on a bigger role in providing face-to-face advice and networking.
Forum of Private Business spokesman, Phil McCabe, said that the role of public sector business support was to complement private sector support.
“In some areas, the Business Links duplicate the support that is already available, although in other areas they succeed in complementing other services. It’s not the case that public support will be withdrawn completely — it’s just changing. The RDAs and Business Links will be replaced with local enterprise agencies, which will plug any gaps.”
However, small business owner, Sadie Hopkins, founder of York Coffee Emporium, said that a lot of start-ups rely on Business Link in the early stages.
“Although private sector support might be a viable alternative for medium-sized businesses, a lot of small businesses, particularly start-ups, will not be able to afford the rates that private consultants often charge. It’s a shame that the Government have decided to cut back on free business support, when they are otherwise doing so much to encourage entrepreneurship.”