Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Business Information in Yorkshire

There have been some significant changes in the provision of business information in the Yorkshire region.

As from April 2008 the Business Link services in the Yorkshire and Humberside area have been delivered by a new provider. Y&H IDB has been selected by Yorkshire Forward as the contractor for the new regional Business Link. Y&H IDB has been set up by Examplas (which runs the east of England Business Link) and Reed in Partnership (which delivers New Deal and Train to Gain programmes in Yorkshire.

The main change is that the four regional Business Links have been replaced by the single Business Link Yorkshire based in Barnsley. It offers a "fast, friendly and practical business information from our experienced team of Information Advisers". The range of business information on offer is vast, backed by a broad network of library and technological resources. Information Adviser will help new start ups or established companies obtain the most appropriate package of support.

At the same time the South Yorkshire Euro Information Service has closed and been replaced by the new Enterprise Europe Yorkshire based in Bradford. Enterprise Europe Yorkshire is part of a Europe wide network with over 500 partners. Supported by the European Commission and Yorkshire Forward, they provide a comprehensive enquiry service on EU related matters for local businesses.

The development of these Yorkshire wide agencies for business information highlights the issues raised by SINTO in the Libraries are Good for Business project. This showed the difficulty of providing a comprehensive business information service for Yorkshire through 15 separate public library authorities. Despite their being no central planning or co-ordination, a structure has emerged with two libraries (Leeds and Sheffield) providing a regional service, others providing a specialised local service and a few which do not attempt to duplicate provision but refer specialist enquiries to other sources.

The project also demonstrated the difficulty of co-operation between Business Link and the public libraries with a lack of a strategic approach to co-operation and partnership working. Business Links have seldom regarded public library business information services as significant - but while Business Links serve the needs of businesses, business information is important to a much wider audience including consumers, trade unionists and business students. Public libraries also act as an access point for small businesses, start-ups and pre-start-ups. It would be nice to think that the development of a single Business Link would make dialogue and partnership easier, but with the demise of MLA Yorkshire there is no longer a single voice for libraries in the region.

One recommendation in Libraries are Good for Business was that public libraries (through the Society of Chief Librarians Yorkshire) and Yorkshire Forward should develop their role in the Better Deal for Business framework beginning with libraries signing up to this framework. SCL Yorkshire was not able to take this basic step and in most authorities business information services are being cut back. The contrast between a single Business Link and EIC on the one hand and a fractured public library provision on the other is stark and the profession seems unable to respond, as it has done in the past, by working together.

SINTO, meanwhile, produces a directory of business information services in Yorkshire to enable resource sharing, networking and referral; and runs a business information group. for more information contact the SINTO office.

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