Business Link wins extension

Companies across South Yorkshire have been re-assured that Business Link advice services will continue to be available until November, although levels of service will be cut drastically after April.

The Government has ended uncertainty about the immediate future of the business advice organisation by extending its contract from April.

But, Barnsley-based Business Link Yorkshire will only get 6 million to fund its activities for the eight months to November, compared with its current annual budget of up to 30 million.

Chairman Tony Pedder told The Star: "The message is we are open for business. Give us a call. We are there to help."

Mr Pedder, who is also chairman of Sheffield Forgemasters International, says enquiries from businesses tailed off towards the end of last year because of the uncertainty over whether Business Link Yorkshire would be funded after April.

But there has been a considerable pick-up in enquiries since the start of the year and Mr Pedder is urging companies to seek help now while Business Link can still offer its full service.

"We are running as usual until the end of March, when we will start to slim down a bit," said Mr Pedder.

After that, the organisation will be offering a service which Tony Pedder describes as "Business Link Lite."

Business Link will continue to run its information service so that businesses can seek advice, but they may find themselves signposted to other sources of help, instead of having their problem dealt with by Business Link.

The organisation plans to continue running seminars and clinics on key business issues and hopes to be working with local authorities and the private sector on events.

However, it says that from April it will no longer be able to offer one to one support on companies premises.

Mr Pedder praised Business Link staff for their continued commitment, despite the recent uncertainty and the impending prospect of job losses.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm among staff. We have got a high level of commitment from staff who are very enthusiastic about what they do," he said.

Mr Pedder said Business Link was keen to work with local authorities, the new Local Enterprise Partnerships and other organisations to help them develop business support services to fill the gap left by the abolition of Business Link.

"We are very keen and available to help with that transition. This is a critical time for businesses and individuals, particularly since there is an expectation that there will be job losses in the public sector over this period," said Mr Pedder.

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