Lord Young – the Prime Minister’s adviser on enterprise – published his long-awaited report on small businesses this morning. It features a raft of recommendations aimed at helping SMEs to grow, including:
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.”
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