Business Link: scale it back
Business Link has always troubled me.
For citizens, government has always strived to provide a single point of entry online, one allowing people to cut through the bureaucracy and (dis)organisation of government to find the information or service pertinent to them. Statementing your child; buying your road tax; understanding the stamp duty levy; understanding the healthcare process.
This is important. Government has a duty to people and to helping them through many of the circumstances they face in their lives.
Open.gov became UK online became Directgov. And there is now good traction on this front. Search for a wealth of government-related services, and indeed customer-related problems that government is best-positioned to resolve, and Google will bring back a Directgov page above all others.
I think that Business Link has tried to do the same for the business community. It has tried to help businesses through every eventuality. Yet I don’t think that government’s remit should extend this far.
In my opinion, government has four key remits with respect to supporting businesses:
- Educating people who are looking to go into business
- Informing people about the law pertaining to being in business
- Providing easy access to the transactions with government that people must do
- Helping people in closing a business down.
Yes, businesses need to be able to exist, nay thrive. But being in business comes with a responsibility to seek advice and, in many instances, pay for that advice. You’re in business, among other things, to make money. So you must use some of that money to serve yourself.
A right-wing viewpoint would suggest that the same should be true for individuals. But making money is not the primary concern of individuals in their experiencing most “life events”: having a baby, schooling a child, taxing the car, claiming disability benefit. Yes, some are the result of choices made, but I think government has a remit in supporting people through these times.
In my view, Business Link should be a site of no more than 50 pages—each no more than 750 words in length. It should link off to Companies House and HMRC to facilitate the transactions referenced in the third bullet above. But in these austere times, there should be no aspiration to bring it under one roof.