THE PRIME Minister’s adviser on enterprise Lord Young published his long-awaited report on small businesses this month with recommendations welcomed by Derbyshire chamber of commerce to help small to medium sized businesses grow.
Recommendations include the following:
Removing the age cap for the Government’s Start-Up loan scheme so all entrepreneurs can benefit
Abolishing prequalification questionnaires on contracts under €200k across the public sector
Introducing Growth Vouchers to encourage more small firms to get specialist help
Launching a “Supporting Small Business Charter” and award scheme to incentivise business schools to help SMEs grow
Releasing the former Business Link website from Government ownership to third party providers, for them to rebuild and improve
Enabling the private sector to provide advice to SMEs on the Government’s website www.gov.uk
Better marketing of Government schemes to support new and developing businesses
George Cowcher, Chief Executive of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Small firms are the lifeblood of the economy, but will only be able to reach their full potential if measures are put in place to help them access the finance, skills and services they need to grow.
“The focus must now be on getting these proposals off the ground so they can actually unleash the transformative power of enterprise and enable small firms to play their full part in driving the economic recovery.”
On the proposed Growth Vouchers scheme, Mr Cowcher said: “DNCC wrote to the Treasury in September urging ministers to adopt proposals to introduce a new scheme to help businesses that want to grow gain access to crucial services and advice. It was pleased to see formal commitment to the scheme – along with £30m of initial funding – announced in the 2013 Budget.
“The Chamber now looks forward to working with the Government to bring the scheme to life and enable businesses to get the specialist assistance they need.”
On proposed changes to procurement, Mr Cowcher said: “Small firms are keen to compete for more of the public sector contracts advertised in their local areas. However, they regularly tell us it is hard to break into procurement by local councils and other bodies, due to onerous information and application requirements.
“Lord Young is right to call for better access to local procurement for small firms, and for the abolition of prequalification questionnaires and other red tape which stops many smaller companies from competing for public sector contracts.
“However, the Government will need to do more than just encourage local authorities to open up procurement to smaller firms. It may also need to look at ways to sanction councils and agencies which don’t let the UK’s SMEs compete for their business.”
On business advice to SMEs, Mr Cowcher said: “The closure of Business Link in November 2011 left a huge gap in the provision of business support.
“The Chamber and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership have tried to fill this void through initiatives such as www.thebusinessadvicewebsite.co.uk, which signposts businesses to local sources of business support, information and advice in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
“However, more can still be done on a national level. Lord Young’s recommendation to enable the private sector to both rebuild the former online presence of Business Link and provide advice directly through the Government’s own website is a step in the right direction.
“The private sector, and larger firms in particular, have a key role to play in helping smaller businesses to flourish.”