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Business Forum

News - 2 July 2010
Mark Prisk MP

Business minister expands on plans to end Business Link

In an interview, Mark Prisk, the business and enterprise minister, has confirmed the new government’s plans to shut down Business Link – the national publicly funded business advice service.

In the interview with Real Business magazine, Mark Prisk, the business and enterprise minister, has expanded on the new government’s plans to shut down Business Link – the national publicly funded business advice service.

In the interview he said: “The regional Business Links have spent too much time signposting and not enough time actually advising. We’re going to wind down the Regional Development Agencies [RDAs] and as part of those, we’ll be winding down the regional Business Link contracts.” The RDAs administer the Business links contracts one of which for the entire south-east region has just been awarded to SERCO.

To replace the current Business Link service, Mark Prisk proposes a two-pronged approach, led by a state-funded web-based advice service and greater use of private sector advice agencies, saying : “We need a 21st century approach to business support. We can deliver a lot more online and make better use of the private providers. The vast majority of private businesses don’t use public services [for advice]”.

This will entail an improved and simpler-to-use online service, accessible both on desktops and on mobiles, supported by a call centre. The existing Business Link service already provides a well-respected on-line presence and has dedicated call centre staff employing an “advice, diagnostic and brokerage” model.

Private sector provision of business advice will also become more important fitting into the proposed new system of Local Enterprise Partnerships [LEPs] [see earlier story].

Quoting research that purports to show that 80% of businesses do not use publicly funded advice services Prisk said: “Remember that the vast majority or private businesses just don’t use public services. They use the free things that are available to them anyway. We have to think intelligently about enabling effective business support rather than about effectively running it.”

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