The quality of design and other services offered by Business Links advice shops will come under fire in this evening’s (Thursday’s) House of Commons debate on the network. Labour’s attack will also include questions on funding.
“The evidence is that too often Business Links are not providing adequate support, yet they are costing the taxpayer millions of pounds,” says shadow small business minister Barbara Roche.
Backing Roche’s comment is at least one design agency, which has slammed a Business Link for providing a “laughable response” to a design-related query.
Consultancy selection service EDR received a seven-page fax copied from Manchester’s local telephone directory when it requested information on local design groups from the region’s design counsellor (see Letters, page 11).
“The listing included services from artists to interior designers and incorporated the dental technicians and invalid equipment and services categories,” says EDR new-business manager Tim Hill.
“This is a laughable response and the service seriously needs to look at how it manages information – businesses are perfectly capable of getting lists for themselves,” says Hill.
Roche says: “I remain concerned about the service offered by Business Links, and EDR’s experience confirms my view that the quality of what local Links offices offer varies greatly.”
But Tim Hill agrees with Design Business Association chief executive Ian Rowland-Hill, who says that while the Links network has been experiencing “teething problems to do with consistency in the quality of services it offers”, it could prove to be a success.
“Some Links do offer a better service than others because there is no coherent package for the training of advisers. But given the right support, training and education, the Links can provide a useful service,” says Rowland-Hill.