BERR: you are the weakest Link

According to the government, only 1 in 20 entrepreneurs actually uses its flagship support service...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A survey by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR to its friends) found that just 5% of new entrepreneurs admitted to using their local Business Link for advice when they’re starting a company. That makes them even less popular than bank managers (consulted by 16%) and even accountants (consulted by 12%). Now there’s a damning indictment.

The survey – of 10,000 small businesses in the UK – found that almost half of respondents were producing new products and services, the highest level since 2003. But the overall picture was a bit worrying – just 65% of respondents had ambitions to grow their business, which means that there a lot of very apathetic entrepreneurs out there in the so-called engine-room of the economy. Even BERR’s own press release could only claim that the sector was seeing ‘steady progress’ – a pretty modest boast...

One major problem, of course, is that the government’s recent tax hikes – particularly on CGT – are bound to have lost it a few friends in the SME community. Taxation and regulation were considered by entrepreneurs to be two of the three biggest obstacles to business success (only competition got more votes). Business Minister Shriti Vadera’s claim that BERR was ‘driving through one of the most ambitious programmes to ease the burden of regulation on business launched by any government’ is all very well – but it was the government who introduced half of this red tape in the first place.

And the survey figures seem to BERR this out. When respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with government agencies on a score of -200 to +200, only Companies House scored more than 100. Just one in ten felt that the government took some account of their concerns, while 34% of respondents felt that the government didn’t take a blind bit of notice of them.

One thing’s for sure: a huge proportion of entrepreneurs are just not making use of Business Link and similar organisations. This could be because the government needs to do a better job of raising awareness. Or it could be that they know all about Business Link, and choose not to use it because they think it’s rubbish. Either way, BERR clearly has a lot of work to do...

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