Governments formulate public policy to address perceived problems. Sometimes governments need to respond quickly, say, to a health crisis. One policy domain, however, rarely sees a crisis and that is small business. Governments might, therefore, be expected to take a long-term, evidence informed and rational approach, learning from the success of practitioners and policies implemented by other governments and seen to be successful. However, our review of 50 years of small firms policy in England suggests that it has been poorly conceived, short term and without strategic coherence. Part of the reason may be that small firms ministers spend an average of just 19 months in post and are driven by a desire to do something to make their mark. We conclude that this somewhat irrational approach to policy making is driven by a self-imposed “pressure to act swiftly”.
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Which was quickly co-opted by the New Labour government at the time, adopted by subsequent governments and rephrased as making ‘the UK the best place in Europe to start and grow a business’ (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2015) and which, post Brexit, may revert back to the ‘world’.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have adopted different SME policies; Wales has usually had the same policies as England but implemented in different ways. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all benefit from a long-term public agency to deliver SME support. Policy reviews elsewhere in the UK include Northern Ireland (Hart and Gudgin, 1999) and Scotland (Deakins et al., 2000).
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Irwin, D., Scott, J.M. Five decades of small business policy in England: policy as a value proposition or window dressing?. Br Polit (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41293-021-00179-3
- Policy formulation
- Small business