THE Business Link service will be wound up in November and replaced with an updated website which will give businesses the opportunity to work with a local mentor.
So far 40,000 mentors have come forward nationally to register with the Department For Business and Skills for the Mentoring Gateway scheme.
The Government says businesses will receive support from mentors in their own region and there will be no charge for the mentoring service.
The demise of the Business Link service has been touted for some time but the Government says it will close at the end of November this year, earlier than the previously anticipated date of March 2012.
Alastair MacColl, chief executive of Business & Enterprise UK (BE-UK) which runs the regional Business Link, has been preparing for this announcement for months.
In the face of Business Link’s impending demise, BE-UK had made 135 redundancies from its 416-strong workforce.
But BE-UK recently unveiled ambitious plans to expand further outside the region with the aim of providing business growth, improvement and economic development support across the UK.
MacColl said: “With our track record we will be formidable competition in the field of business improvement and enterprise across the UK.”
The scrapping of the regional Business Link service comes as the Government announced an expansion in the scope of its planned new enterprise allowance (NEA) which is aimed at helping to create up to 40,000 new businesses by 2013.
The NEA, which will help unemployed people set up their own businesses, will be available to twice as many people as was originally planned.
It will give financial support for the early months of self-employment, access to a start-up loan and an expert business mentor.