Business Links in shake-up

‘Get better or get out’ minister tells programme providers as scheme is relaunched

Poorly performing Business Links will be expelled from the system if they do not come up to standard, under plans laid out by the Government this week.

League tables, tougher accreditation procedures and professional qualifications for business advisers were among a range of measures unveiled by small firms minister Barbara Roche to improve performance of the Business Link network.

‘Businesses are expected to continuously improve – we expect the same thing of Business Links,’ said Roche. Those that failed to perform would ‘lose the Business Link brand mark’. Roche said the relaunch was aimed at raising quality and improving confidence in the Department of Trade and Industry-backed advice centres.

‘There’s a lot of good work going on but the service is patchy. There’s a need to raise quality,’ she said.

The Government will set priorities for the development of Business Link partnerships or centres of expertise to deal with issues such as improving export performance or working with technology-based companies. ‘This is building on what’s already happening,’ said Roche. ‘I don’t expect all Business Links to operate in the same way.’

In setting priorities, the Government would look at ‘where Business Links can add value’ by providing services not properly covered by the private sector.

League tables would be based on ‘a variety of quite broad measures of how Business Links impact on companies, such as productivity and profitability’.

Though companies cannot shop around for a higher performing Business Link, the tables ‘are intended to act as a spur,’ said Roche.

In parallel with this, the accreditation procedure would be tightened to become a continuous rather than a one-off process.