Small businesses in Teignbridge have joined the ‘big society’ whirligig and attended the Teignbridge Business Buddies programme.
Launched by Newton Abbot’s Tory MP Anne Marie Morris, Teignbridge Business Buddies ‘will seek to match new start-up businesses and existing companies with a turnover of under £250,000 with “buddies” to assist them in making the most of business opportunities’.
Only the mildly cycnical see the ‘big society’ as a scam to hide the social and civic failings of the Coalition government behind a veneer of what’s-in-it-for-me opportunists.
But let’s not be cynical. This is how Anne Marie described the business buddies scheme in Parliament. She said: “In my constituency, we have set up Teignbridge business buddies, under which businesses help each other with small individual problems for free. That is not addressing a state role, but it does show that community is bigger than just individuals; it is also about the businesses within communities.”
Which sounds laudable.
It’s fitting that Anne Marie launched the group. According to our denied but not refuted figures, Anne Marie spent nearly £20,000 on advertising in the local paper, and then when she was elected gave it her expenses to look at. Very ‘big society’.
At a time when the inefficiency of government procurement is highlighted and there is furore surrounding news of the pay off of the former Secretary General of Amnesty International, the ‘big society’ looks like being a flawed model even before it starts.
But enough of our jibber jabber, here’s what Anne Marie had to say: “I am delighted by just how many local business people have offered to assist in this networking scheme as their contribution to creating a Big Society for Small Business here in Teignbridge. More than 20 businesses were represented at our inaugural business and considerable interest has been subsequently shown by many others.
“It is well established that micro and small businesses are the lifeblood of our regional economy. I know from personal experience that the most challenging aspect of starting a business is the early years when turnover is low, bills need to be met and the taking on of an extra pair of hands is not always affordable. It is during these early days that many businesses would really benefit from good quality impartial advice.
“I believe the Teignbridge Business Buddies Network represents the Big Society for Small Business in action. It is local business people with expert knowledge providing assistance to existing and new businesses that request it. I am proud to have launched it and I will now hold regular business surgeries across my constituency where local businesspeople can meet informally to discuss their concerns with me and be put in contact with an appropriate buddy.”