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February 13, 2015

Business support bodies must raise their game

Business support bodies must raise their gameA new report has highlighted failings in the UK business support infrastructure and says more must be done to help growing businesses.

The report, published this week by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and backed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW), urges Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to drive small business growth through changes to the way support is provided.

Although the report recognises the important role played by LEPs, it highlights some areas of weakness.

Business support is “often ineffective” according to the research conducted by the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC). Issues raised include the fragmented nature of the support, with too many schemes in place and a lack of coordination between schemes.

John Allan, FSB national chairman, said: “This report highlights the great potential of LEPs to energise small firms in England – but only if the right steps are taken to improve the design and delivery of business support. This could be achieved by cutting duplication, better co-ordination of support at the local level and robustly evaluating schemes on their effectiveness.”

The FSB is calling for LEPs to work with newly-formed Growth Hubs. It describes these as “ideally placed to make improvements to the business support in their areas”.

LEPs, it says, need to provide “much needed co-ordination and leadership, and provide much greater focus to the offer in their area, including regular monitoring of the effectiveness of schemes”.

Allan added: “There is no ‘magic bullet’ solution that will work across the country, because every locality has unique needs that individual LEPs must satisfy. But a long-term approach based on proper evaluation of initiatives, co-ordinating plans nationally and focusing on fewer, more targeted initiatives will all work to raise business performance.”

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