SBS chief backed.

Small Business Service chief executive David Irwin will have an ‘independent, formal right of access to the prime minister’, small-business minister Patricia Hewitt pledged last week. Irwin, who takes up his post on 1 March, can expect to be consulted on all regulatory proposals affecting small companies at the earliest possible stage, according to Hewitt. He will also sit on Mo Mowlam’s new red-tape ‘star chamber’ which will scrutinise all regulation to see if it passes the DTI’s ‘think small first’ test. Hewitt said the small-business community had given wholehearted support to the one-stop shop SBS, which the government hopes will act as a gateway providing an electronic network of databases accessible by telephone, fax, mail, Internet or by walking through the door of a local business link. ‘We had an excellent response to our consultation to shape the remit of the SBS,’ she said. ‘We received 700 replies from a wide range of individuals involved in and with small businesses. The vast majority welcomed the three main tasks proposed for the SBS. ‘These are: acting as a strong voice for small business at the heart of government; helping small firms deal with regulation and ensuring small firms’ interests are considered in future regulation; and simplifying and improving the quality and coherence of government support for small businesses.’ The DTI is establishing a Small Business Council to advise Irwin and report to trade secretary Stephen Byers on small-business needs and the effects of government and SBS policy on these businesses. Ministers have also invited proposals to run new business link franchises in each of the 45 franchise areas from April 2001. Irwin said: ‘I am encouraged that the small firms’ community has given the green light to the SBS. Together with the commitment shown by the prime minister and the government we will be able to offer first class support to small firms.’ Byers said: ‘Small firms and business people have clearly demonstrated their support for a strong and effective organisation to champion their needs.’

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