CBS has ‘wasted’ 3m

The Government’s failed Consultancy Brokerage Service has been condemned as a huge waste of money after the Department of Trade and Industry revealed it cost nearly 3m to set up.

The CBS was developed by the DTI as a national directory from which Business Link advisers could source design and other services. But a response of only 250 applicants instead of the 10 000 expected forced the service to be scrapped before its official launch.

Design Business Association chairman Jonathan Sands says: “It’s very easy to criticise the Government but [the CBS] has been a huge waste of money. I’m sure the DBA, Chartered Society of Designers and other bodies could have spent it more wisely.”

The DTI shelled out a total of 2.94m on the bungled scheme, 1.37m of which went on information technology hardware which can be used elsewhere.

The remaining 650 000 was shared between the contractors, including Salford University Business Services which was appointed to run the service, said President of the Board of Trade Ian Lang, responding to a Parliamentary question from former Labour trade and industry spokesman Jack Cunningham.

The DTI’s alternative to the CBS, regional group databases developed with Business Links, are intended to be less costly. “It is not expected that this alternative approach will entail any significant expenditure,” says Lang.

Sands says the DBA should become involved in setting up the databases to avoid the mistakes of the CBS: “We will pledge to find out how we can help.”

The Business Links are “open for business and working well”, says Lang. “Seventy per cent of businesses now have access to the Business Link service,” he said at the official launch this week.

Design Council design director Sean Blair says “almost 20” design counsellors are in place, but that figure will “ramp up quite quickly”.

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