Roche pledges to act on Business Links criticism

Small FIRMS minister Barbara Roche has pledged to address any inconsistency among Business Links branches, after renewed criticism from the design industry. Her vision statement on the scheme launches next month.

Kee Scott Associates is the latest design consultancy to attack the scheme for not having a coherent policy. Meanwhile, CSD president Adrianne LeMan says the word in the industry is that: “While some areas are good, the quality of the service across the regions is still uneven.”

Kee Scott claims a misunderstanding of the system has caused it to lose money.

Joint managing director John Haig says the consultancy has lost money because, contrary to general perception, each of the 89 Business Links is an independent company, responsible for its own administration.

He had registered with one regional office and assumed he was registered with the organisation Business Links. However, on winning a contract with a client registered with another Business Links branch, he discovered he must pay to register there too. As he had not factored this cost into the contract fee, he must now decide whether to swallow the cost himself or charge the client.

“It is very apparent that there is a need to get some formulation which runs through all Business Links services,” says Haig, who strongly supports the principle of Business Links.

Roche acknowledges the discrepancy: “While Business Links is a national network, it is essential that individual Links have some flexibility in their business operations… Even so, the issue of variable charging practices is an important one.

“We will be discussing this practice with Business Links in order to establish the extent to which this is a problem for consultants,” she adds.

John Moran, an innovation and technical consultant at the Doncaster & Barnsley branch of Business Links, says: “I can accept that there may be a perception that we are one organisation, but while we are a common brand we are independent.”

Roche’s vision statement on the scheme is due to launch in the first week of October. It will look to address the implementation of uniform quality across all the Business Links.

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