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IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED IN THE MANAGEMENT OF SCOTTISH ENTERPRISE BUSINESS SUPPORT SERVICES

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Scottish Enterprise needs to do more to show that it is achieving value for money in providing some£40m of support...
Scottish Enterprise needs to do more to show that it is achieving value for money in providing some£40m of support (over three years) to businesses with growth potential, according a report* from the auditor general for Scotland.

Between 2000 and 2003 Scottish Enterprise channelled this money through the 12 Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) to assist almost 1,000 businesses. LECs select these businesses for an account management service, which provides advice on business planning, helps to deliver business plans and in some cases, gives financial assistance.

The key findings in the report include:

-Businesses supported by Scottish Enterprise are generally positive about their experience and their contact with account managers.

-Scottish Enterprise and its LECs have yet to implement a consistent approach to selecting companies for account management

-LECs did not always hold consistent and comprehensive evidence to show that businesses being given direct financial aid were meeting the criteria for receiving such assistance

-LECs must improve their checks on whether the benefits of the scheme are delivered

-Overall, employment increased amongst account-managed businesses, but results varied widely across LECs. The cost per job created was up to 13 times higher in one area compared with another.

-Advice by the account manager often achieved more impact than financial assistance

'Scottish Enterprise accepts the need for a more consistent approach to its account management services,' said Robert Black, the auditor general. 'I welcome the commitment of Scottish Enterprise to an action plan which should assist in ensuring that the level of support it provides is justified, and I would encourage Scottish Enterprise to look at the variation in the levels of service and the results across Scotland.'

Notes

The full title of the auditor general's latest report is 'Scottish Enterprise - account management services to high growth companies', and it is available here.

Businesses supported by LECs range in size from very small ventures with one owner/manager up to multinational companies with a presence in Scotland, and across sectors as diverse as traditional heavy industries, electronics, biotechnology and tourism.

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