The shadow work and pensions minister, Mark Harper, has questioned how much the government’s Business Link service has spent on support for start-up businesses and contractors. Harper was asking how much of the £207 million Business Link budget was ringfenced for one-person ventures or new companies. He put this to Lord Mandelson’s business department, requesting figures for the past twelve months. However Pat McFadden, Lord Mandelson’s deputy, has refused to provide the requested information. He stated that the department would incur a prohibitive cost for gathering this data.

In response to Mr Harper’s question, Mr McFadden stated: “The department provides regional development agencies with funding in a single pot for the delivery of services. The RDAs contract with regional suppliers to deliver Business Link. The question requires gathering data from the nine regions and the multiple suppliers they contract with to deliver start up services locally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.”

Business Link are now providing courses where people can gain knowledge about how to run their own business. However, these courses are only accessible by people who have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for a period of six months or more. The government have also recently conceded that some people on shorter term unemployment may also be eligible to attend some of the self-employment training courses. These concessions relate to specific groups including people with a history of homelessness and other disadvantaged members of the community.

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