Ruth Mitchell

Enterprise must be championed in Whitehall

The Small Business Service (SBS) should be given the authority to promote the needs of smaller firms to policy-makers in Whitehall, the Confederation of British Industry has announced. It should be a powerful advocate for small business, invested with real authority, and this should include the power to audit policies affecting entrepreneurial activity. The CBI also wants the SBS to be able to audit other departments’ work to examine their business-friendliness and to insert liaison officers across government to build pro-enterprise policies.

The CBI is urging the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, Alistair Darling, to adopt these firm policy recommendations in the restructuring of the SBS which he is expected to announce in the coming days. CBI Director-General Richard Lambert said: “The Government knows that successful small businesses are vital to the UK’s long-term prosperity, but this means they need their voices to be heard so they can help shape an environment which is conducive to growth.

“The Small Business Service should have the power to audit the work of other government departments which have an impact on small and growing business, and mechanisms should be developed to link it more formally with government beyond the Department of Trade and Industry.

“The CBI’s vision of the SBS has always been built on the success of the US’s Small Business Administration in its heyday when it was a powerful advocate for enterprise, with a chief executive able to speak out with authority on behalf of small business. This should be the aim for Government.”

The CBI believes far more attention should be paid to boosting the growth of small firms - perhaps the most important driver of wider economic productivity and growth - as well as promoting start-ups. In the CBI report, “Encouraging Small Business Growth”, entrepreneurs cite regulation, taxation, a shortage of skilled staff and poor infrastructure as the main obstacles to growth.

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