The Conservatives Party would scrap the government's flagship advisory service Business Link if it wins the next election, shadow small business minister Mark Prisk has claimed.
"We believe that regional Business Links are failing in their task," Prisk told the Sunday Times as he outlined the Tories' small business policy. "Many surveys show that only a small proportion of businesses use them and those that do are dissatisfied with the service they receive."
According to the MP, because much of the annual £190m spent on regional Business Link services is dedicated to directing enquiries to other experts the organisations should be scrapped and replaced by an expansion of the enterprise agencies network. Prisk said these organisations are "local", "face-to-face" and "able to adapt to what businesses in that locality need".
The agencies would be financed, he explained, by the government offering to match funding for three years with the other half of the money provided by councils and chambers of commerce. Prisk said that after that enterprise agencies will replace their government funding with other income streams such as providing incubator space for start-ups.
The MP told the newspaper that the approach was part of an overall policy for the government to take more of a hands-off approach towards small companies.
"What businesses need is clarity and certainty so they can get on and create the wealth and the jobs," he said. "Our job will be to support them but in a way that will free them to do what they do best. That is a very important shift. Government does not know best when it comes to free enterprise."
Other plans being considered by the Conservatives include the Work For Yourself initiative which like the Enterprise Allowance Scheme of the 1980s would provide weekly allowances for the unemployed to start businesses and introduce a "sunset" clause for every regulatory body requiring them to justify their existence.
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