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Business: South West

Volume 493: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assistance the South West of England Regional Development Agency is providing to small and medium-sized businesses in the South West region during the recession; and if he will make a statement. (277286)

The South West Regional Development Agency’s activity to support SMEs during the recession involves two key strands:

1. Strategic Leadership

The South West RDA is an integral part of the South West Regional Economic Task Group (RETG), chaired by the Regional Minister for the South West, which is responsible for co-ordinating the region's overall response to the recession. It leads on work strands focusing on business support, skills and employment, and green economic recovery.

In December 2008 the RDA established a Regional Business Forum to enable regular dialogue with key business representative organisations in the region. It acts as a sounding board for new plans and initiatives and provides business a voice to help shape policy development.

Through its management of South West EU programmes, the RDA is ensuring that over £1 billion of EU and domestic investment from 2007 to 2013 is being targeted at improving the productivity of small and medium-sized businesses in the South West.

2. Support for Business

The RDA has been working to enhance the support already available through the Government’s Solutions For Business services provided via the Business Link network. Since October 2008, Business Link has provided over 4,350 free Business Health Checks to local SMEs, and developed a Business Survival Guide to help small businesses cope with the downturn and prepare for recovery.

On 14 April the RDA launched its £10 million business loan fund which offers viable businesses with growth potential loans of up to £250,000. This augments the financial support available through the Government’s Real Help for Business support package launched earlier this year.

The RDA organised eight workshops in April and May which provided 500 businesses in the region with advice, guidance and networking opportunities.

In November 2008 the RDA established eight Area Action Forces across the region to co-ordinate the public sector response to individual businesses in difficulty.