The government continues to fail the UK’s growing business community, despite pumping an annual £8bn into 16 different SME support services, according to a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report published today.
The CBI report, entitled Improving Government Services for Small and Growing Businesses, concluded that as SMEs face such a confusing range of conflicting and inconsistent quangoes, grants and agencies (of which there are thought to be 2,650 in England), many growing businesses are now turning away from publicly-funded schemes.
According to CBI figures, one such quango called Business Link was found to cost roughly £140m to run each year, but in reality was only used by 14 per cent of businesses.
Lucy Findlay, head of the enterprise group at the CBI, denied that the report’s aim was to petition for a reduction in government SME support spending.
“We don’t want a reduction in funding, but we have called for a re-evaluation. We see a need to reduce the confusion on the ground,” she said.
In its report the CBI makes 12 key recommendations, including a creation of a desire by all government departments to improve SMEs experience of government services and a call for publicly-funded initiatives to be aligned with business demand, to address market failure and to provide added value.
Ian McCafferty, chief economic advisor at the CBI, told CRN it would stand by the report’s recommendations to ensure that the government takes its findings on board.
“We need to get the advice to growing and start-up businesses right to ensure that they can thrive. Patchy support can put businesses off going to these services for help,” he said.
John Griffith, an independent channel consultant, said promotion would greatly help to improve the service that small and growing businesses receive from government initiatives, such as Business Link.
"It's an invisible service to many, including resellers, and needs proper marketing, which is very hard for the government to do. Not all the services are awful, but some of the problems are exacerbated by red tape and funding problems," he said.
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