Headlines: September 25th, 2008

Local councils are to trial a streamlined business support programme devised by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

There are more than 3000 schemes to support UK business, but the complex web makes it difficult to find help. There is little coordination between the schemes. The Annual Small Business Service Survey found that over 50 per cent of small businesses want government help, but struggle to find their way through the maze of provision. This means the businesses that will benefit most from support are often those least likely to access it.

In response to the survey findings, the department has devised a Business Support Simplification Programme to streamline the system. The number of support schemes will be reduced from over 3,000 to fewer than 100.

Trials by local councils of different aspects of the programme will start next month in Croydon, Newham, Cornwall, Lincolnshire, Nottingham, Tees Valley and the Thames Gateway in Kent. Topics to be trialled include, the fit with existing local authority funding, how to reach disadvantaged communities and how best to meet the needs of specific business groups such as creative, ethnic minority, women and young entrepreneurs.

Businesses will be able to access a new streamlined portfolio of products from October, with all products in place by March 2009. The full Support Simplification Programme will implemented across the UK by 2010.