The NEA hasn’t actually been launched yet; it’s going to be introduced in Merseyside later this month, with a full roll-out planned by the autumn. Once it’s fully functional, the allowance will provide financial support, a start-up loan and sessions with an ‘expert’ business mentor, who’ll help would-be entrepreneurs take their first, tentative steps into the world of business. As with all these things, though, there’s a catch: the allowance will only be available to people who have been out of work for six months or more. And they’ll need to have already come up with a business plan and persuaded their proposed mentor to agree that it’s viable.
This is all part of the Government’s plan to transform the UK into a hive of entrepreneurial activity. During a tour to promote the Government’s jobs and growth strategy, the PM said that ‘throughout this year and beyond, we will be focused relentlessly on supporting growth and driving job creation across our economy’.
This will also include an overhaul of Business Link, the ageing publicly-funded advice service. Cameron said the transformation of the service’s creaking website into a lean, mean ‘business startup hub’, complete with access to online company registration and something called a ‘business tax dashboard’, would be completed by April. In the run-up to the Budget on March 23, the Government is also planning to publish a white paper on boosting trade, as well as a report into how its growth review – a consultation with businesses to help find ways to improve the UK’s commercial environment – is going.
All of which is very well-meaning. But can it help make the next few years, in Cameron’s words, ‘some of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial in our history’? Potential entrepreneurs will be less interested in blue-sky-thinking reports, and more in concrete support measures. So this is a start – but with the VAT hike and the spending cuts likely to put the brakes on consumer spending, 2011 is still likely to be a challenging time to start a business. We can only admire those who do take the plunge…
- Speaking of which, why not have a look at the Business Heroes Awards. We're looking for the green kings, the mumpreneurs and the business owners who can demonstrate true grit - but there's not much time left, so get your entry in now.