'There will still be help for businesses'

a BUSINESS advice service which will close in November will be missed - but there will still be support for budding entrepreneurs in the city.

The government wanted Business Link Yorkshire to close at the end of March but the organisation, based in Barnsley, was given extra funding by Yorkshire Forward until November 25. The service to support start-up entrepreneurs will be replaced by a call centre and national website.

But start-up firms in Leeds will still get the help they need, it has been pledged.

Simon Brereton, programme manager for Leeds' Local Enterprise Growth Initiative Sharing the Success, which supports new businesses in the city, said: "There is no doubt that Business Link, in its many forms over the past 15 years, has been a great help to many businesses in Leeds.

"Whether we are talking about Business Link Leeds, Business Link West Yorkshire, or the current incarnation - Business Link Yorkshire - the Business Link service has consistently provided reliable up-to-date information on how to start and run businesses, and I am pleased that all of this will still be available through the national website.

"Fortunately for Leeds, the partnerships we have developed through Sharing the Success, and the help and advice that's still available from the programme, will be able to pick up many of the support needs of small businesses. The help that's available through Leeds Chamber of Commerce will, after Business Link closes, be the only publicly-funded free business support available in the City.

"And it's not provided by civil servants, but by people working in the private sector and with lots of relevant small business experience. We are working hard to provide more of this kind of support, and adapting our approach to take account of national policy and funding."

Mr Brereton said that the loss of Business Link "has not come as a surprise" and steps have been taken to try and fill the gap.

He added: "No entrepreneur should be put off by the closure of Business Link. Over the next few years, our small businesses and the people who start and run them will be really important to the life of Leeds, and we will be doing everything that we can to help them to be successful."

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