Will the coalition government close Business Link?

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Business Link, the free business advice and support service, available online and through local advisers, is under fire. It’s the second most expensive government website to run costing £2.15 for every person that visits the site.

The government are undertaking a review of the £94 million spent on developing and running just 46 websites in 2009-10 with an additional £32 million spent on staff costs. “The last government identified 794 sites still open and promised to close 422 of them. Only 24 sites have been reported as closed and more sites have since been discovered and so the present total number of government websites is 820″. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister has said “We will take tough action to get rid of those which are not up to the job and do not offer good value for money”.

The big question is with the governments emergency budget focusing on private business and encouraging entrepreneurship should Business Link be one of the websites to face the chop. Business Link are a mainly free to use source of information and their most valuable service is to identify what resources a business needs and then to connect them with external industry experts to fulfill those needs.

John Pemberton, MD of GMDC who trades on eBay and Amazon told us “Business Link were invaluable in assessing my business needs and they connected me with a business consultant who assisted in putting my business plan together. He then connected me in turn with Lloyds Bank, where with the business plan I was able to secure an Enterprise Finance Guarantee loan for £50k at the height of the recession. This secured the future of my business and allowed me to expand significantly more rapidly that would have been the case without Business Link”.

Business Link is more than just a website, it’s the only resource where all business related information is in one place. It’s independent and unbiased and most importantly it’s free to use.

Have you used Business Link in the past and what was your experience of them? Would you be sorry to see the service disappear or be amalgamated in a cost cutting exercise? The site may be expensive to run, but if it assists businesses start up and grow should this be one of the sites ring fenced and protected?

11 Responses

  1. Well I do think it’s important but for me it was no good. I had a meeting to discuss our plans and what was available to us and to be honest I knew more than the consultant on what was available.

    I think it does depend on where you are in the country and I believe, I maybe wrong, but more money is spent in the north and scotland etc trying to push business startups so I think it would be a loss in these areas.

    Stuart

  2. I’ve found the free seminars very helpful, but the advice I received when I was starting up was limited. More recently, my so-called mentor seems to have disappeared with no explanation.

    I also attended one of their free inspirational events (James Martin). The talk was fine but it was held in a prestigious location with free drink and food for several hundred people which I thought was way over the top for a publicly funded organisation.

  3. During the foot and mouth epidemic I was awarded a goverment grant through the auspices of Business Link.
    Althought the grant was very welcome, I found Business Link to be pretty ineffectual. My impression was it was just another self serving talking shop – a quango who’s raison detre was self promotion.

  4. I found the website a good source of information – but unfortunately I have to agree with the other comments, I knew more than the advisor when starting my business in 2006. I failed to get funding despite Business Link telling me I should have no worries

  5. Many businesses are still feeling the impacts of the current economic climate. Government should do everthing to limit the unemployment and limit the amount of smaller companies going out of business. I think government should see how things improve over a few years rather than keep changing things every year. Businesses at this delicate time need as much support as they can get, perhaps spend a little more money improving the service it has rather than cut it out completely… otherwise, we have quite a dull economic future.

  6. The advisors are the 1st stage, and are there to guide you to the more experienced management consultants who are external people and generally have excellent contacts with banks and business angels etc.

  7. I seriously hope they don’t close business link. They’ve helped my business in many ways.

    This would be yet another blow to the Midlands as EMDA (East Midlands Development Agency) is also facing the axe. Would it not be a better idea to run them more efficiently without the extravagance of the food and drink mentioned above?

  8. Close Business Link now! What a total waste of money this organisation is! You could replace it with a one-page static website which would be just as useful.

  9. trouble with these things are that the service and help available tends to be the price and amount of grant available ,rather than the quality and cost of the help they provide

  10. The economy will thrive without business link, of that I have no doubt.

    Business Link is a failed model, it provides no value for money and I very much doubt it would pass any independent audit.

    None of the advisor’s I know of have ever run a business, they are often unreliable, but the worst thing about business link is how they control access to grants and restrict the use of private suppliers.

    Diversity in the market place is crucial to success, any A-level economics student can tell you that, but in their wisdom BL sought to limit control access to a small bunch of ‘favoured’ suppliers on the basis that ‘nanny knows best’.

    Meanwhile businesses go bust and unemployment rises in our region.

    However, the Local Enterprise Partnerships proposed as an alternative is equally misguided and equally open to misuse of public money. I am disappointed that the government has so much faith in the local authorities – it’s misplaced for sure.

    Scrap the grants and free training – give tax breaks instead. Reward success.

    It’s the only fair way.

  11. I would agree that Business Link could be more efficient but having said that there are many companies in the private sector that could improve thier efficiency and I am sure that that Business Link Advisers could and have helped them. It has been mentioned on various sites and by a certain minister that Business Link Advisers are Civil Servants and have never run a business. I have met a lot of Business Link Advisers and not one has been a Civil Servant and all have come from the Private Sector with many having run thier own successful companies

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