SENIOR councillors have ordered a streamlining of business advice services to ensure small and start-up enterprises have the best chance of leading the region’s economy out of the current financial gloom.
Sheffield Council’s Labour administration has vowed to bring its services to encourage enterprise “under one roof” in a move it says will save public money while improving the services available.
At present, leading members are concerned that advice for small business is spread too thinly, with several different agencies operating under the auspices of the authority, but not working together.
Coun Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, who speaks for the council on business and enterprise, said action was being taken because non-council advice services had been culled under Government austerity measures.
She added: “Previously we have had Creative Sheffield, LEGI, First Point for Business, Solutions for Business, the Business Transformation Team all providing support for business.
“I am pleased to say that we have now started the process of bringing all of this together into one place under the Creative Sheffield brand to make it easier for businesses to access the support available to them.
“There is plenty of detail to sort out but by next April. All of these services should be operating from one place, under one brand with a single point of entry.”
Earlier this year, Sheffield Council unveiled aspirations to become Britain’s most “business friendly city”, and Coun Mirfin-Boukouris said the latest measures were designed to support that.
But she said the council had to take the lead, after the recent disappearance of regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI) and Business Link.
She added: “Enterprise matters to the council. We are currently faced with one of the biggest economic challenges in our lifetime. Our approach for the next few years is to work with all sectors of the economy to get Sheffield back on its feet.
“We will work with both existing businesses and new start ups with the potential to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
“Worklessness will be tackled by supporting self employment and the start up of new businesses, especially amongst young people.
“We will also continue to promote an enterprise culture, in schools and colleges and in the neighbourhoods most likely to be affected by the downturn.
“We know we have a challenge ahead of us, but we are committed to doing all we can to support business, grow our economy and see our city flourish.”
The council said its new enterprise team was already working on several projects with schools, the city’s two universities and the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, which has been set up by the Dragons’ Den businessman.
Daniel Bradley, 25, of Crookes, said he had received support to set up his new company Goldfish Systems, which designs software for small business in the engineering sector.
He said: “Without the council’s backing I wouldn’t have dared start. They helped me take the plunge and offered a complete service.
“The advice covered everything from mentoring to information analysis, market research, all the way to networking. It was free but it felt tailored to me.”
Sheffield, like other areas in South Yorkshire, has relied heavily on the public sector to provide jobs, but Coun Mirfin-Boukouris said this could not continue.
She added: “It is the private sector that will create the economic growth Sheffield needs to get more people into jobs, to give young people hope and create the quality of life the city aspires to.
“The council’s role is to ensure that it has strong and supportive relationships with the business community, so that firms feel encouraged to make long term investments and new investors see Sheffield as the place to be.”