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Written Statement - Micro-Business Task and Finish Group Report – Response

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Edwina Hart, Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science

The Micro-Business Task and Finish Group I set up in September 2011, under the Chairmanship of Robert Lloyd-Griffiths, Director Wales, Institute of Directors, launched their report on the 18 January 2012.

The report identified five key priorities; awareness and access of business support services for micro-business, access to finance, mentoring and coaching, public sector procurement and regulatory burden.

In the micro-business debate on 31 January I made a commitment to update Members with information on the implementation proposals. I have now considered and am happy to accept all of the recommendations underpinning the priorities that fall within my portfolio. A full implementation plan has been drawn up and is being delivered against.  

Actions I am taking immediately include the following:
• Develop, define and test proposals from the Micro-Business Task and Finish Group on creating a clear business support brand;
• Promote and raise awareness of, and access to business support for micro-businesses;
• Prioritise access to finance, for example the SME growth fund which will be open for applications by the end of March.  The Department is also in advanced discussions with Finance Wales on setting up a £6m fund specifically targeted at micro-businesses;
• Enhance lobbying by the Welsh Government on non devolved regulatory burden that impact on Welsh business;
• Engaging with stakeholders to ensure solutions meet requirements;
• Research global best practice to inform implementation, for example, the New Zealand Mentoring model; and
• Commission a review to consider streamlining the number of publically funded business support products and providers.  

In the short to medium term the following actions will be implemented:

• Establishing a network of One Stop Shops across Wales to provide businesses with direct and indirect support by expanding and redirecting the current Regional Centre Service.  The approach will be piloted from this April followed by full roll out by January 2013;
• Aligned to and included in the delivery of the One Stop Shop approach, deliver:
- Establishment of a pan-Wales mentoring and coaching scheme;
- Access to appropriate finance options including funding up to £20,000;
- Support aimed at minimising the impact of regulation on business, developed with engagement from the Welsh Government funded Local Better Regulation Office;
- Access to provision of international trade and exporting support;
• Communicate with stakeholders and ‘go live’ with the business support brand across the support offer;
• Lobby for change and implement positive action to minimise regulation e.g. Business Rate Review Task and Finish Group and Whitehall Red Tape Challenge; and
• Continue to deliver next generation broadband infrastructure across Wales through the existing project.

In addition, in relation to public sector procurement, on the 21st February the Finance Minister and Leader of the House announced the commissioning of a review into the impact of public procurement policy across Wales and I will provide the related recommendations for consideration.

In order to fully implement this report a whole government approach will be crucial. The report recommends strongly that effective and co-ordinated cross departmental and organisation work will be needed to deliver an over-arching framework to ensure stability and focussed support for micro-businesses.

I will provide Members with updates on progress and delivery against the implementation plan and my officials will be working closely with stakeholders on the specific details of implementation.