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Two small business owners who have been leading enterprise advisers to Government; Tony Robinson OBE, founder of SFEDI (, the business enterprise training and support standards setting body, and Elsa Caleb, director of SFEDI and former member of the Government’s Small Business Council, have expressed support for Sean Taggart, managing director of Kent-based Albatross Travel. Mr Taggart has just resigned from the Department for Business and Regulatory Reform's (DBERR’s) Small Business Forum, claiming that the voice of small business has been ‘neutered’ in Whitehall.

Both have been quick to agree with opinions cited by Taggart for his departure, particularly his comment that the Small Business Forum had become ‘merely a 'tick box' for an SME engagement agenda that appears to focus more on one-off events rather than meaningful long-term dialogue and understanding.’

“The SFEDI Board of business owners shares Mr Taggart’s frustration,” comments Tony Robinson, recently recognised for championing UK entrepreneurship by the International Association of Book-keepers and a member of DBERR’s Ethnic Minority Business Task Force.

“We give our recommendations in good faith based on what prospective and existing small business owners want. Yet when policy is turned into programmes, we end up with a couple of hundred thousand management-led organisations becoming awash with billions of pounds of government training and support budget, whilst 4.3 million self employed and small business owner-led enterprises receive, comparatively, peanuts and higher costs for meeting regulation. It’s a form of discrimination.”

He added: “What’s worse is that small business owners often get someone sent by government, who couldn’t start or run a small business in a month of Sundays, wasting their time by asking them pre-set questions or giving them prescribed solutions so that the government’s engagement targets are met. This is despite SFEDI laying down the competence standards to be met by all those providing support to small business owners.”

Elsa Caleb, founder of EJC Associates Ltd, a previous winner of both the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners Award for Training and Woman of the Year for Social Enterprise, said: “Sean’s resignation is a warning shot for government. At SFEDI we believe government should help every new start up and small business owner, in their first year of trading, to meet enterprise friendly regulations and gain the know-how and support network to survive and thrive. The training and support they receive must meet SFEDI standards in order to guarantee quality. We don’t want big company boiled down leftovers. Government should be funding those who can’t afford training and not supporting those companies which can. It sometimes seems to intervene where it is easier to achieve headline grabbing targets and not where it is necessary to intervene.”

Elsa and Tony agreed that despite them urging government to ‘go with the grain’, too much money is wasted when it does try to help small and home business owners. “Government doesn’t trust those who are already the trusted advisers to small business owners so instead sets up its own expensive consultant-designed infrastructure, marketing agencies and job roles for every new programme. It should be enabling advisers in enterprise agencies, community based business support, small business membership organisations, chambers, private sector training and support providers, professional service practices, business clubs and the like to do the engagement and delivery job for them.

“Despite us giving up huge amounts of time at great cost to help with policy and programmes, it seems that the regulatory burden is just as great and very little of the Train to Gain, Learn Direct, Skills for Business Network, Investors in People and Business Link money has been spent on useful, practical business development training and support for micro business owners and the self employed.

“We need help from all small business owners and all the small business membership and support organisations on the SFEDI Advisory Board to unite to get the attention of government so that Mr Taggart’s efforts are not in vain.”


Notes to Editors:
SFEDI is the UK standards setting body and endorsement body for prospective and existing small and home business owners and all those that support them. More details on SFEDI, its work and endorsement programme and logos can be found on

The UK SFEDI Advisory Board Enterprise Support Awards take place at BAFTA on 17 April 2008. Details are at

SFEDI Advisory Board Organisations supporting and hosting tables of their guests at the UK Enterprise Support Awards so far include:

Lloyds TSB
Federation of Small Businesses
Inbiz – Microbusiness and SME training specialist
National Federation of Enterprise Agencies
The British Chambers of Commerce
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
IAB Qualifications for Business
Kent Enterprise (part of Kent University)
GoSkills – the Sector Skills Council for the Passenger Transport Sector
Lantra – the training organisation for the land-based sector
Customer First (UK) – the organisational standard setting body for customer service for business support

SFEDI media enquiries:
Please contact: Rebecca George - George PR - 01449 737281/07974 161108, email:

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