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Entrepreneurs Panel

Richard O'Sullivan
Michael Oliver
Charlie Mullins
Steve Purdham
Tony Caldeira
Brian Hay
Laura Tenison
David Pollock
Debbie Pierce
Julie Meyer
Jeremy Roberts
Jennie Johnson

Survey spat

SBS rejects criticism from Chambers

The Small Business Service has reacted angrily to a scathing attack from the British Chambers of Commerce, which is calling for the agency to be scrapped forthwith.

The BCC’s director general, David Frost, this month launched a blistering attack on the agency. He said that research among members showed, “Firms up and down the country have suffered six years of failure on enterprise policy.”

“Despite many warm words from a long line of government ministers, tangible support for small firms has been woeful,” he stated.

The survey questioned 550 businesses about their experience of the government’s 2004 action plan for small businesses, for the delivery of which the SBS is responsible. Singled out for particular criticism were performance against the goals of encouraging a more dynamic start-up market, improving small businesses’ experience of government services and developing better regulation and policy.

A SBS spokesman, however, gave short shrift to these claims. He questioned the survey’s methodology and the size of the sample, pointing out that there are currently 4.3 million businesses in the UK.

This, he said, is a record number, and that the World Bank ranks the UK first in Europe and sixth in the world as a business start-up location. He acknowledged that services provided by other government departments were outside the control of the SBS, but said that the number of businesses using local Business Links, for which it is responsible, has doubled over the past four years.

He also pointed to a recent press release from the CBI praising the SBS for making it easier than ever for smaller enterprises to raise finance, and said the agency had been given a leading role in implementing the Chancellor’s plan to rationalise sources of business support by 2010.

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