Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Should we axe the SBS?!

There's been a few preemptive news stories in last week's press about axing the SBS - claiming to report on the forthcoming announcement by Alastair Darling to trim down the SBS and devolve more enterprise support activities to the regions.

The times reports it here and is pretty scathing, calling for the SBS's abolition. The Times mentions that the British Chamber of Commerce said that the SBS had failed - which I can't find reference to. The BCC website refers to members feedback on the DTI which is positive and also points to high member buy-in to the mission of the DTI, but that's it.

The CBI's view of the SBS is fairly well balanced and valid although I have a few quibbles - CBI is mentioning/calling for the following:

- The CBI believes far more attention should be paid to boosting the growth of small firms - perhaps the most important driver of wider economic productivity and growth - as well as promoting start-ups

- SBS to have more power in Whitehall, not less - a lot of this relates to making government regulations more friendly to business, less bureaucratic etc, and to continue impact assessments on business of new legislation.

- DFES should ensure skills and education more tailored to what businesses want (been trying to get his for 20 years or more!?)

- SBS/DTI should work to simplify tax system for small business

- UKTI focuses too much on very small businesses - refocus on medium sized businesses

- Govt should reduce administrative burden

And what is my view? I hear the very few of you ask

The evidence is there to suggest that small businesses and new businesses generate a lot of new employment and innovation in the economy. Its economically and politically expedient of the government to act in this area. However, the SBS has always been a bit of a fudge. They have got some things right, especially things like research, and getting down to the main priorities for encouraging enterprise start up and growth, but they are a bit too remote from the real world of entrepreneurship. Should stuff be devolved to RDAs? in my view, RDAs aren't really fit for purpose either, so maybe not - it depends on the RDAs really. I think if devolve to RDAs, you need to build a community of practice, expertise and business advisor development at the national level - this is exactly what the SBS should be doing - being more of an enabler and resource to drive the agenda forward. As it stands, its too much like a ministry.


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