Finance: DTI action plan to 'secure social enterprise's place in economy'

The Government will open markets for social enterprise in central and local government, Alun Michael, a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry, promised last week.

Speaking at the second annual Social Enterprise Coalition conference, which was also addressed by Tony Blair on a video link, Michael told delegates the DTI was committed to breaking down barriers in the public services procurement process for social enterprise.

The goal is part of the department's social enterprise action plan, which will be launched in the spring.

"The new action plan is about aiming for the next level of growth in social enterprise," he said. "It aims to secure social enterprise's place within the business landscape, and help embed it in our economy as part of the mainstream."

Michael, minister for industry and the regions, promised the plan would ensure publicly funded business support provided by Regional Development Agencies is readily available to social enterprise.

But he also called on the sector "to recognise the need to make a profit to survive and grow, and demonstrate that social enterprise is truly entrepreneurial".

In 2002 the DTI, under Patricia Hewitt, launched a social enterprise strategy and developed a toolkit for enterprises to help them compete with private and public sector bodies for contracts from local authorities.

But the DTI's commitment to social enterprise came into question last year when its Social Enterprise Unit was taken over by the Small Business Service.

Speaking from Number 10, Blair told delegates: "Today is about celebrating the success of social enterprise and looking to the future. I want to see social enterprise become a mainstream choice for anyone setting up in business."

Other speakers at the conference included Dr David Colin-Thome, the national clinical director for primary care in the NHS, who highlighted opportunities for social enterprise in the forthcoming health white paper and Brian Burgess, chairman of the Brentford Supporters' Trust.

Jonathan Bland, chief executive of the coalition, said: "After all the political interest that social enterprise has attracted, the conference was an invaluable opportunity for the coalition to listen to its members."

FACT FILE

Alun Michael, a minister at the DTI, has promised the Government will open markets in central and local government for social enterprise

He also claimed that the DTI was committed to breaking down barriers in the public services procurement process for social enterprise

The move is part of the DTI's social enterprise action plan, to be launched in the spring

Michael promised the plan would ensure publicly funded business support will be available to social enterprises The announcements were made at the Social Enterprise Coalition conference.

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