18th February 2010

The Sunday Times brought us an article by Mark Prisk (Shadow small business minister) about business support under a Conservative government. Whilst I can hear the gnashing of teeth in some quarters I can only applaud what could be good news for Enterprise agencies and business start ups.

I have previously argued for a light touch from government, which should seek to create the conditions to start and grow a business and then let the market dictate degrees of success. Enterprise Agencies are ideally placed to meet this need as mentioned by Mark Prisk and indeed have been doing so successfully for 30 years. Our error was in not getting together as a strong national group for too long, not sharing good ideas and allowing the concept of Business Link to be nurtured rather than strengthening what was already there.

The fact that we have survived for 30 years is testament to our sustainability and so the proposal to go back to our roots and have government funds match our income for a three year period is spot on. The detail needs to be agreed but if we could match our income it gives us a chance to build on our solid foundations, invest in income generating assets and break free of government support which in future can be targeted where it is needed – if at all.

We are impartial social enterprises rooted in local communities and as such sit ready to grasp this opportunity. Combine this with a new Enterprise Allowance type scheme and a new spurt in business starts could be seen along the lines of the 1980’s. Some will fail but that is free market enterprise, many will thrive and provide the country with a more diverse business base less reliant upon “big business” and less exposed to the risks which that entails.

Too many government departments seek to meddle and launch new initiatives. It is the small things which can make a big difference and if there truly is simplified legislation and repeal of the plethora of unnecessary employment law then business will get behind it. History can and should influence the future so when you have something good – nurture it!

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