Business Link website: a waste of money?

The report, Delivering regulatory reform, aims to analyse whether the Better Regulation Executive and government departments are achieving value for money in their management of regulation. In Business Link’s case, the answer is… no.

One of the more interesting stats from the report relates to BusinessLink.gov.uk, Business Link’s supposed pride and joy.

The report reveals that the portal is used by only 34 per cent of businesses. This is five percentage points up on usage in 2007, according to the report.

“Our case study interviewees showed low awareness and usage of the website, one respondent even suggesting the introduction of an almost-identical system, not realising this was already available,” reads the report. Ouch, when you’re trying to be the go-to source of information for SMEs, that’s gotta hurt.

“Recent work looking at micro-businesses undertaken by the Better Regulation Executive found that 28 per cent of businesses in this category are not online and so would not have access to web-based information.” This is quite shocking, too. Twenty-eight per cent of businesses are not online? Why on earth not?

Regardless, the Business Link website, as the report explains, is meant to be a one-stop-shop for business. “The site is intended to include guidance on almost all regulation that can affect business, has systems to help identify what regulation applies to a business and has numerous links to further information.”

Our view? While BusinessLink.gov.uk actually does include guidance on pretty much all regulation, the problem is that it’s impossible to find it. BusinessLink.gov.uk has the potential to actually be very good website, offering useful and valuable information to businesses, but it just isn’t delivering the goods.

Money, money, money

The Business Link website already came under fire last summer, when a report by the Public Accounts Committee found that BusinessLink.gov.uk costs £35.8m a year to run. With 16.7 million visits last year, this works out at £2.15 a pop. A little pricey!

This new statistic – that the Business Link website – is “only” used by 34 per cent of businesses, doesn’t come as a massive shock.

In fact, 34 per cent is probably a better number than we’d have expected. For a £35m site, BusinessLink.gov.uk is outdated, gives a poor user experience, and it’s often near-impossible to find any useful info.

BusinessLink.gov.uk - a best-practice example of how not to spend £34m

Now that the regional Business Links have been scrapped, the website (and associated call centre) have been given a mandate to replace the face-to-face element. What’s it waiting for to improve?

What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Now!

Come on, Business Link, get your house in order.

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