A Labour proposal for a drastic shake up of business support for SMEs should it come to power has been described as an “interesting concept” by a leading business figure in Cumbria.

Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, has unveiled plans to establish a new Business Development Agency (BDA) to act as a “one stop shop” and fill the gaps in the current “complex” patchwork of public and private sector led initiatives at a local and national level.

The BDA would see a network of advisors based at larger Post Bank branches provide guidance on support, funding and advice on large-scale Government contracts, while an online portal will also be created, she said.

Suzanne Caldwell, deputy chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said the DBA could have a valuable role to play in areas that did not have a well-developed network like Cumbria, where the vast majority of businesses fall into the SME category.

“Labour’s proposal is an interesting concept that has its merits,” she said.

“In Cumbria, businesses already have access to a comprehensive network of advice, expertise, grants and more through Cumbria Business Growth Hub, which Cumbria Chamber set up.

“It has assisted more than 7,500 businesses to date.

“But that level of support isn’t available across the country and the BDA could fill a gap in some places.”

But Mrs Caldwell did call into question the way the BDA could deliver its services, adding: “Based on our experience with the Growth Hub, is that very often businesspeople want our advisers to visit them, so the adviser can see the business and better understand its challenges.

“Online and drop-in services wouldn’t fulfil that need.”

Other key proposals in Labour’s 20-point pledge to help SMEs and rejuvenate Britain's high streets, include free full fibre broadband to every business premises, access to funding for training raised through the Apprenticeship Levy, and the scrapping of quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000.

It also wants to give SMEs better access to funding through the establishment a £250 billion UK National Investment Bank, along with a network of Regional and National Development Banks, “stamp out” late payment, and “fundamentally” reform the business rates system, including switching to annual valuations.

Ms Long-Bailey, said: “Labour’s Business Development Agency, will create thriving businesses within our communities, bringing life back to local economies.”