Midlothian’s Business Gateway team has disappeared

Tuesday April 16th 2019

Midlothian Council Business Gateway Team

Written by Midlothian View editor, Phil Bowen

Midlothian Council has with no warning removed it’s team of Business Gateway advisors.

Business Gateway is a publicly funded service delivered by local authorities which delivers advice and support to Scottish businesses. They focus on two types of businesses, new startup businesses and established businesses that are looking to grow.

Each local authority in the UK has a Business Gateway team and Midlothian’s team is funded as part of a South East of Scotland contract led by Edinburgh Council. The money is ring-fenced and so cannot be spent on other council activities.

For the past two years Midlothian has had a very effective Business Gateway team which has met with 200 new startup businesses each year to give them the advice and support they need to get their businesses off the ground. They have also advised a high number of Midlothian Businesses on how to grow their businesses.

But in March the team was abruptly told that they were no longer needed and that they were being made redundant.

The decision has been greeted with surprise by the Midlothian business community, who have said it seems strange to axe an effective and vital team which has ring-fenced funding and so is not affected by the council’s current budget pressures. One local business branded the decision “crazy.”

Councillors too were taken by surprise as they were not told about the change and one senior councillor only heard about it when Midlothian View asked him about it.

Asked for comment, a Midlothian spokesperson said:

“Midlothian Business Gateway is continuing to provide a service and at present two colleagues are acting in an advisory capacity – meeting with clients who require start up advice, and those looking to further develop their business.”

However, last week no one turned up from the Business Gateway team to attend the regular business networking event at the Paper Mill which Business Gateway run in partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB),

The FSB have escalated their concerns with Midlothian Council’s Economy director, Mary Smith.

FSB Development Manager for the East of Scotland, Garry Clark, told Midlothian View:

“New and existing businesses in Midlothian have come to expect a high degree of service and expertise from our local Business Gateway. At a time when the service is experiencing change, it is vital that these high standards are maintained and that knowledgeable and expert advice continues to be provided where and when it is needed.

“The Federation of Small Businesses has received assurances at a local, regional and national level that this will be the case in Midlothian and we will continue to engage with Business Gateway and with local businesses to ensure these promises are kept.”

Edinburgh council will also be monitoring the situation as they have overall responsibility for the service and the funding. They do have the power to take the service away from Midlothian Council and pass it to a different provider.

At a time when Midlothian is Scotland’s fastest growing area, Midlothian’s new and growing businesses do not have the support of an experienced Business Gateway team.

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