The New Local Enterprise Partnerships: An Initial Assessment - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

Further written evidence from Advantage West Midlands to Margot James MP, member of the BIS Committee

  At the BIS Select Committee meeting on 7 September, you asked me a question regarding the withdrawal of Agency funding to a project designed to help local businesses improve their IT,

  Having made inquiries, I believe that you were probably referring to a region-wide pilot project called "The IT Advisory Service" aimed at improving the take up and usage of IT amongst SMEs. This was being run by Business Link who, of course, are recipients of AWM funding, and was being delivered through a number of consultants who are quite naturally concerned about the effect of the termination of this activity on their business.

  This pilot was due to end on 31 March 2011 but new applications for support will be closed from the end of November 2010. Whilst recent cuts to AWM's budget have contributed towards this early closure, BIS's own review of the "Solutions for Business" programme, as well as of the Business Link model itself, have played a part.

  You will no doubt be aware that BIS now favour a business support model based to a greater extent on an on-line service. Of course, the point of this project was to get SMEs on-line in the first place so we do have some concerns as to how West Midlands' businesses, who have a poor record of adopting IT, will be able to fully access such a new on-line service.

  That said, we accept that it is the prerogative of BIS to close down projects such as the IT Advisory Service, just as they are doing for other grant-funded programmes run by Business Link, such as the Diversification programme, "Business Transformation", the Environmental Advisory Service and the Innovation Advisory Service which have also had to close applications to new clients following instructions from BIS.

21 September 2010

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