London support service link-up

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The Independent Online
RADICAL plans are afoot to streamline support services for businesses across London, to stimulate enterprise and job creation in the capital.

Business Link, a national concept previously known as the One Stop shop, has been spreading across the country since Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, called last year for an end to fragmented support services for companies. In London the problem has been acute. Business Link (London) is still in its early stages and companies have to pick their way through a plethora of agencies.

They often do not know where to turn for the best advice. And the providers of the best advice may be on the other side of town. The Business Link (London) Development Partnership has been set up to remedy this. Last month it held a conference to raise awareness of the challenge. More than 200 business support organisations turned up.

The partnership aims to give companies speedy access to information and advice, crossing the boundaries of local councils, enterprise agencies and the nine Training and Enterprise Councils that cover the capital. Information technology will play a key role in delivering the service, helping more than 200,000 businesses in the Greater London area to find the help they need.

Companies with growth potential are the target. and the potential for generating growth in London will have ramifications for Britain's economy as the recession lifts: the capital accounts for 17 per cent of gross domestic product and three out of four businesses employ fewer than 10 people.

David Edwards, project director of Business Link (London), said: 'Where there are economies of scale we can deliver a pan-London service. It is no good there being nine Business Links operating independently in the capital. The aim is to set up a real network, both organisational and electronic, to help businesses across the capital.' Agencies that have traditionally seen themselves as competitors will be encouraged to work together.

Mr Edwards said information technology would be a key area. 'It will be structured so that if a customer comes in for advice on the west side of London on a fashion-related problem, and the best provider of the service they require is on the east side of London, the Business Link machine should be able to facilitate that.'

He said there was a growing awareness among service providers that they could not all deliver sufficient services.

As yet, there is no Business Link outlet in London. But four Training and Enterprise Councils (West London, North-west London, North London and Solotec, which covers Croydon and Bromley) are in the vanguard. Each has set up partnerships that embrace local enterprise agencies, local authorities and chambers of commerce.

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