What an irony when the previous government, after much research and feedback, had started to press on with a simplification programme. The current Government took this to a new level by getting rid of Business Link and the Regional Development Agencies. Whatever else they did, these were the higher profile information and signposting providers. So where do businesses, looking to understand what their options are, turn for guidance now?
My belief is that many business owners are not even trying to find support. Some assume that they will not meet the criteria; others are put off by the bureaucracy and complexity of some of the new schemes; others are simply unaware that there is now a variety of providers of support and finance in the marketplace.
My major concern is that, in such a climate, many businesses will start up and attempt to grow without the benefit of an independent view provided by a mentor or business support professional. The cycle of early business failures and personal debt will therefore increase, hindering any growth prospects, enterprise success and job creation.
We are once again awash with grant schemes intended to support business growth - a reminder of the position in the late 1990s after a smaller recession. It would, in my view, be beneficial if some of the funds that are being made available could be channelled into promotion, enabling businesses to make an informed choice about the financial and business support that is most suitable for their circumstances. Sadly, there is little evidence so far that this is the case.
- Steve Walker, Chief Executive
Aston Reinvestment Trust