Business Support “must include face-to-face advice”

Small firms must continue to have access to free face-to-face advice under the Government’s plans to reform UK business support, the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies has said.

The business group’s new chief executive, Dawn Whiteley, said she was concerned that the face-to-face element of Government-backed business advice may be lost once the Business Links are removed in November this year.

She said that the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) must include face-to-face guidance in their activities, and called enterprise agencies and other business support groups to do all they can to fill any gaps.

“We strongly believe there needs to be some face-to-face support. We know there is less money available, but we don’t want this valuable aspect of business support to be taken away completely.

“The current Business Link arrangements are just through a website and a call centre, so there will be no training or one-to-one support for start-ups. We do not yet have the details of what LEPs will offer, but we were concerned that there was a lack of support for enterprise in some of the submissions we’ve seen. We want to remind LEPs what that ‘E’ stands for.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) would not comment on whether the Government would provide free face-to-face support. However, a BIS spokeswoman said:

“We are providing the Business Coaching for Growth programme to help small businesses achieve their potential, as well as making information on the Business Link website more accessible and relevant to their needs.

“Many of new changes respond to feedback from small firms which say that the best people to advise new entrepreneurs and existing businesses are those who have already started and run successful companies.”

Business Support “must include face-to-face advice” says the NFEA

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