Small business support services need work

Government-run support networks designed to offer help and support to UK small businesses and start-ups are falling short of the standards required, according to a report from the Confederation of British Industry.

The CBI report, Improving Government Services For Small and Growing Businesses, shows that many small firms do not trust the quality of advice on offer or do not believe it is relevant to their needs.

For example, Business Link is used by just one in seven firms despite receiving £140 million of Government money a year. Furthermore, independent research shows only 38 per cent of those businesses are satisfied with the general business information it imparts.

‘With UK levels of entrepreneurial activity stalling, and levels rising elsewhere in the world, it is more crucial than ever that Government services help to deliver productivity gains for business,’ commented Ian McCafferty, CBI Chief Economic Adviser.

‘Quality business support is proven to boost survival and growth prospects so is essential to enabling an “enterprise revolution”,’ he continued. ‘However, there are too many overlapping, confusing and inconsistent schemes.’

The CBI has made a number of recommendations to improve matters, including:

  • Streamlining the services and support schemes on offer to reduce confusion and free up resources to improve those which are effective and add value.
  • Filling a gap in the support network for small firms looking to grow.
  • Improving training for advisers, especially those lacking a business background, to offer a higher quality of advice, particularly for firms needing strategic advice rather than nuts-and-bolts help.
  • Ensuring any publicly funded initiative reflects business demand and addresses a failure or gap in the existing market.
  • Pressing Government departments to work with the Small Business Service to create an enterprise culture rather than resist it.
  • Regional Development Agencies must focus their resources on economic development and regeneration and ensure the business community is involved in development of regional policy.

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