In the detail of the emergency budget documents the 8 regional development agencies that employ 3,400 would be closed and the budget of a whopping £270 million would be cut as part of the overall government savings plan. The RDAs would be replaced by local enterprise partnerships, details of which have not been announced.
Whilst Business Link is to go, it’s website is set to continue.
Mark Prisk, the minister for business, innovation and skills, has said that as part of the winding down process of the RDAs that they would also be winding down the regional Business Link contracts.
It is thought that the online web service would be continued to be state funded and wanted a privately funded partnership for the face to face advice as a “21st century approach to business support” and recent research showed just how much government websites cost. As we recently reported, the total cost of developing the Business Link website is a mind blowing £35 million which attracts around 1.6 million visitors a month equating to £2.15 per visitor.
During the budget the coalition government spelled out clearly that they wanted a private business economic recovery with the rates of both corporation tax and small business tax falling over the coming years. New businesses of course need real support and although the web can provide a lot of that many new business people do need some form of networking presence with like minded individuals to take them to the next level and may not have the funds to invest into expensive consultants who may not be able to help them in any case.
When we originally reported on this story the feedback was that most people don’t actually turn to the government for advice when starting or running their businesses in any case and the vast majority don’t actually know that perhaps Business Link advisers exist or where to contact them. We hear all the time of good reports as well as bad reports of trying to get appointments and about the quality of the advice provided.
Tony Heywood, the CEO of business support website Yoodoo.biz commented: “Business Link’s online replacement must speak to all potential business owners, not just the high-fliers. 17 million people in Britain have the aspiration to start a business -especially within key target areas such as ethnic minorities and young women; and Business Link touched very few of this latent pool of business talent
As such, Business Link’s online replacement must appeal to everyone. It needs to be open, optimistic and fun, not starchy or buttoned-up. The tie needs to come off! “
Heywood continued “The replacement must engage with the multitude of good ideas people have. That means tailored and personalised advice. Using online services is not an excuse for a “one size fits all” attitude. Every new business is different, and will need individual advice to reach its full potential”
Yoodoo.biz is just one of the many privately funded business support websites and networks currently helping Britain’s SME community, with Smarta.com, backed by TV Dragons’ Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden and the 4Networking group of locally based business breakfast groups and the online forum Business Zone leading the charge.
Are you surprised by the announcement to close Business Link?