What to expect from your new small business minister

 

Mark Prisk, the government's small business minister, laid out his plans for the sector yesterday and last week in interviews with The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. We've summed up his proposals below so you have an idea of what's in store. As is always the way in politics, none of this is set in stone and all promises need to be taken with a dash of salt, but Prisk has proved himself to be pretty switched and reliable on thus far, so we can allow ourselves a little hope at these measures.
(He's certainly intent on understanding the businesses he now represents - he's going to be doing a week of work experience at five small enterprises over the next few weeks to get a rounded picture of the day-to-day issues you're all facing, and is encouraging senior civil servants to do the same. That's on top of his own direct experience - he ran his own property surveying business for a decade until becoming an MP in 2001.)
Here's what you can expect from Prisk over the coming months:
A change to government-backed face-to-face support
Prisk plans to scrap regional Business Link offices and focus instead on improving existing enterprise agencies, which will now cater for small businesses and start-ups too. He'll also create 'growth hubs' across the country based on the British Library's Business & IP Centre. Pulling that off would be a real coup for small business. The Business & IP Centre is an invaluable resource, and we've often said it's a crying shame there aren't more like it outside London. It provides access to thousands of free market research reports from the likes of Mintel (usually several hundred pounds to access), hands-on guidance on IP and free workshops aplenty. Trouble is, every government, business minister and new Budget we can recall has talked of introducing better business support centres. Making that improved support a reality is much easier said than done. But we like the fact Prisk has outright said he wants to offer more face-to-face support. He also plans to improve online support offerings. He'll make a final decision on Business Link within two months.
Extending the EFG
Prisk wants to extend the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, which provides and guarantees loans for small businesses to help ease cashfow problems and for those unable to guarantee loans (it replaced the Small Firm Loan Guarantee - find out more about the EFG or watch this video on how to apply for it). The £500m EFG is currently due to end next March. Prisk hasn't yet said how longs he hopes to extend it for, but David Cameron has criticised Labour's previous targets for bank lending to small businesses for not going far enough - so it may be the amount as well as availability that increases under the Coalition. He's also calling for banks offering the EFG to give greater clarity on when applicants can find out whether they've been successful. "If you don't whether the decision is going to come in week three or week seven, it is hopeless," he said. Hear hear - and his recognition of that is reassuring at the very least.
Less red tape
This is another measure that always tends to get bandied about by business ministers and ministerial hopefuls, but Prisk has got a step closer to solidifying promises by saying there will be a 'one-in one-out' approach to business legislation - a new regulation can only be created if another is removed. ""We will be moving away from tinkering and meddling. You will see that articulated in the next few weeks, over the Budget and beyond," he said.
Letting council tenants start up home businesses
Though this may not be a measure that affects all of you, we really like it. Currently people who live in council houses and social housing are restricted from starting up at home. But many people who live in council housing are those who find it most difficult to get works, particularly in times like these. Starting up solo is a very fitting - and necessary - way forward. And the idea that council tenants should have to rent premises if they want to start up is ludicrous. Prisk said: "I have already talked to my ministerial colleagues at the communities and local government department and we have agreed that we want to remove the restraint on being able to establish a business." This sounds like the wheels of progress are already turning - which gives us more faith in our new minister. Prisk said he is ready to change the law to effect the changes he's chasing.
Overall
Prisk told the Telegraph: "This Government has to do two central things: to get the budget deficit under control and help the private sector to grow. This department is the 'Department of Growth'. That means stripping away the burdens and constraints on business, giving them a long term framework so that people say 'Ok, Britain is open for business."
If there's anything else you think Mark Prisk should be doing, find out how you can get your view to him via our government wishlist.

A change to government-backed face-to-face support

Prisk plans to scrap regional Business Link offices and focus instead on improving existing enterprise agencies, which will now cater for small businesses and start-ups too. He'll also create 'growth hubs' across the country based on the British Library's Business & IP Centre.

Pulling that off would be a real coup for small business. The Business & IP Centre is an invaluable resource, and we've often said it's a crying shame there aren't more like it outside London. It provides access to thousands of free market research reports from the likes of Mintel (usually several hundred pounds to access), hands-on guidance on IP and free workshops aplenty.

Trouble is, every government, business minister and new Budget we can recall has talked of introducing better business support centres. Making that improved support a reality is much easier said than done. But we like the fact Prisk has outright said he wants to offer more face-to-face support. He also plans to improve online support offerings. He'll make a final decision on Business Link within two months.

Extending the EFG

Prisk wants to extend the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, which provides and guarantees loans for small businesses to help ease cashfow problems and for those unable to guarantee loans (it replaced the Small Firm Loan Guarantee - find out more about the EFG or watch this video on how to apply for it). The £500m scheme is currently due to end next March. Prisk hasn't yet said how long he hopes to extend it for, but David Cameron has criticised Labour's previous targets for bank lending to small businesses for not going far enough - so it may be the amount as well as availability that increases under the Coalition.

He's also calling for banks offering the EFG to give greater clarity on when applicants can find out whether they've been successful. "If you don't know whether the decision is going to come in week three or week seven, it is hopeless," he said. Hear hear - and his recognition of that is reassuring at the very least.

Less red tape

This is another measure that always tends to get bandied about by business ministers and ministerial hopefuls, but Prisk has got a step closer to solidifying promises by saying there will be a 'one-in one-out' approach to business legislation - a new regulation can only be created if another is removed. "We will be moving away from tinkering and meddling. You will see that articulated in the next few weeks, over the Budget and beyond," he said.

Letting council tenants start up home businesses

Though this may not be a measure that affects all of you, we really like it. Currently people who live in council houses and social housing are restricted from starting up at home. But many people who live in council housing are those who find it most difficult to find employment, particularly in times like these. Starting up solo is a very fitting - and necessary - way forward. And the idea that council tenants should have to rent premises if they want to start up is ludicrous.

Prisk told The Times: "I have already talked to my ministerial colleagues at the communities and local government department and we have agreed that we want to remove the restraint on being able to establish a business." This sounds like the wheels of progress are already turning - which gives us more faith in our new minister. Prisk said he is ready to change the law to effect the changes he's chasing.

Overall

Prisk told the Telegraph: "This Government has to do two central things: to get the budget deficit under control and help the private sector to grow. This department is the 'Department of Growth'. That means stripping away the burdens and constraints on business, giving them a long term framework so that people say 'Ok, Britain is open for business'."

 

If there's anything else you think Mark Prisk should be doing, find out how you can get your view to him via our government wishlist.

Watch our pre-Election interview with Mark Prisk.

 

 

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