Business Link is now closed. It was originally created as a national network of business support agencies and was managed by the Small Business Service, a government agency set up to champion small business.
The network of more than 40 offices, a vast website, and a telephone contact centre was tasked with providing impartial advice, resources and information on all aspects of planning, running and growing a business in England.
While general business advice was provided free of charge, there was an expectation for client businesses to contribute to the costs of providing some services at a subsidised rate.
The Business Link network operated via the UK’s nine Regional Development Agencies (RDA), which were originally launched in 1999 with the aim of bringing “fresh vitality to economic development and social and physical regeneration in the regions” through a business-led approach. Each of the government-funded organisations encompassed a Business Link service, designed to advise businesses on anything from starting up to international trade rules. All nine of the regional agencies, which had cost the government £154m, were officially shut down in late 2011 as part of the government’s austerity measures. Initially, businesses were still able to access information via Business Link’s online portal.
In October 2012 the Businesslink.gov.uk website, which had running costs of £35m a year, officially closed and was replaced by a pared back portal on Gov.uk.
The replacement service is reported to have a budget of £1.7m and unlike its predecessor, the Gov.uk site does not offer any practical one-to-one business advice.
Business owners can still access the old Business Link information through the national archives, however, this advice will not be updated beyond October 17 2012.
Business Link will still be running a support telephone service on 0845 600 9006. Open Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, the helpline offers both a quick response service to people with queries about starting a business, as well as providing more in depth help for people with complex enquiries.
In addition, and as a consequence of the ‘emergency budget’, in 2010 the government announced that the UK’s nine government-funded RDAs would be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP).
Originally intended to be voluntary, self-funded partnerships between businesses and local authorities, it was later decided that the LEPs would be supported by the government to the tune of £24m.
Other UK business services
While provision of a government-funded advice service is no longer available in England, there are equivalent services for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland:
Scottish Enterprise. Tel: 0141 248 2700 www.scottish-enterprise.com
Business Wales Tel: 03000 6 03000 http://business.wales.gov.uk/
Invest Northern Ireland Tel: 028 9023 9090 www.investni.com