Business as usual at Business Link

DISAPPOINTED managers at Suffolk Business Link have stressed it is “business as usual” after their bid to run the regional services was knocked back.The East of England Development Agency announced on Wednesday that it would be awarding the regional contract to run its business link services to East of England IDB Ltd, a joint venture between the Essex and Hertfordshire business links.

DISAPPOINTED managers at Suffolk Business Link have stressed it is “business as usual” after their bid to run the regional services was knocked back.

The East of England Development Agency announced on Wednesday that it would be awarding the regional contract to run its business link services to East of England IDB Ltd, a joint venture between the Essex and Hertfordshire business links.

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said it had hoped the Tribal consortium bid by Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire and Luton would win, but they would be supporting the successful bidders in the new role.

The Tribal consortium's bid covered half the region's businesses and 66% of its territory, while the EEIDB bid covered the other half.


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The contract to run the links, which could be worth in excess of £45million over three year, is due to start in April 2007.

Suffolk Business Link, which employs around 40 staff most of whom will transfer to the new business under TUPE rules, said it would be striving to ensure a smooth transfer.

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Speaking yesterday , Suffolk Business Link's chief executive Peter Button said they were disappointed, but acknowledged that choosing between the four shortlisted bidders would have been a difficult task for EEDA.

“It must be a difficult decision for them. We all bring different things to the party, but it would be nice to know how they made the decision, on what basis,” he said.

Mr Button, who is chief executive of Genix Holdings Ltd, the operator for the service, said Genix Ltd, the other company within the group, was unaffected and would continue in its role of supporting developing small to medium-sized enterprises in the region.

“What our board's decided is we will continue with our Genix business which will look to seek public sector delivery contracts and to seek work in the private sector as a small consultancy. We won't be the same size as we are now come April 1,” he said.

“At the moment, I have not decided what my personal position will be, but plainly, I'll have TUPE rights along with most of the rest of the staff,” he said.

“They know they have got a job to do for the rest of the year. They take pride in the way they have delivered the service over the last 11 years but they are surprisingly upbeat. They see it as a change of direction clearly.”

He said there were pluses and minuses with going regional, but there were economies of scale which would allow funds to do more.

“We understand EEDA's view that there should be a consistent Business Link model across the region. Consequently, we will be working closely with EEDA and EEIDB to ensure that a seamless service to small businesses in all parts of the region continues through the transition period. We expect a good number of our staff to transfer to the Essex/Hertfordshire joint venture, EEIDB, ensuing continuity of services to our customers,” he said.

John Dugmore, chief executive at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have known for some time that the business link was going to go regional, and the chamber is obviously a big supporter of Business Link.

“Obviously, we would have hoped the Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Luton and Bedfordshire bid would have won the tender, but that's not to say we are not supporting the Essex and Hertfordshire bid.

“We should embrace this in that it's EEDA's chance to improve business support for Suffolk and for the region. It's going to manage the contract, not deliver the contract.”

He said they would lobby to ensure local service within the county.

“Of course, we'll ensure that Suffolk gets its fair share of the regional pot,” he said, adding that it was “vital” there was no interruption in business support in the county.

“We are still going to get good quality delivery at local level,” he said. “It's stayed in the region. It's stayed with somebody who knows what they are doing.”

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