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Picture 3 Mark Prisk is MP for Hertford and Stortford and Minister of State for Business and Enterprise. Here he sets out the Government’s plans for the future of support for small and medium-sized businesses.

Small businesses are vital to the UK economy and to economic recovery. The Coalition Government is working to create the right long-term environment for new and established business to grow and thrive – with lower and simpler business taxes, less regulation and fewer regulators, greater access to finance, and reformed public procurement.

But government also has a more direct role ensuring that start ups and existing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) alike can access the information they need to develop their business. Over the years government has been very active in this area, but its efforts have received a very mixed response from business and market and technological changes mean the system needs radical reform.

The principles of this reform are to modernise the provision of information by creating an interactive online facility, tailored to each business’s needs; to simplify and speed up the process of starting a business; to focus government resources on fast growing businesses, rather than providing generalised support for all; and to recognise that the advice businesses most value comes from those with real business experience.

What does this mean in practice?


First, we want to make sure that businesses can access information quickly and easily, in a format that is useful to them. So we will overhaul businesslink.gov.uk to bring it up to date with Web 2.0 technology and provide online business information and tools tailored to businesses’ needs. This will include a public procurement ‘contracts finder’, a business tax tool enabling firms to keep up with their tax position, clearer information on regulation, and new training services and online tools for entrepreneurs to use in the office, or on the move. This will be backed by a new telephone contact centre to support the 24 per cent of businesses that are not online.

Second, we want to enable as many people as possible to start their own businesses and to make starting up as simple and quick as possible. A new Enterprise Allowance will help unemployed people become self-employed people and an online business start-up hub will deliver one-click company registration. We are also working to making it easier to start a home based business, especially for those living in social housing.

Third, we want businesses to get the best possible advice. What business owners have repeatedly told me is that the advice they value most comes from experienced business people. That is why, instead of being delivered by public sector workers with no real experience of enterprise, advice will be provided through a new national mentoring gateway. For the first time in the UK, there will be a single, cohesive network of over 40,000 experienced business mentors, delivering practical advice and contacts for other businesses, all based on real, hands-on experience.

And fourth, for the ‘gazelles’ of the business world a new programme – ‘Business Coaching for Growth’ – will target established SMEs with the potential to increase employment or turnover by 20 per cent each year over three years. Business Coaching for Growth will deliver specialist advice, coaching and mentoring tailored to a business’s specific needs and aimed at helping it become tomorrow’s market leader.

Alongside tailored plans to help increase the entrepreneurial activity rates of women, service personnel and those from minority ethnic groups, these proposals will help both new businesses and those seeking to grow.

When combined with our broader approach to ease the burden of business taxes and red tape they form a vital part of the Coalition Government’s commitment to creating the best possible environment in the UK for small businesses to start, grow and prosper.

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