The next Government must support SMEs

Kate Sanderson, client services director at Bell Design, says the consultancy is part of a consortium applying to become the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ integrated service provider (News, DW 15 April). She’s certainly plucky: according to the Design Week 2009 Top 100, Bell Design has an annual turnover of £2m and this contract is worth £20-£30m a year.

We asked the DCSF how many account managers they would require and they couldn’t say whether it was ten or 100. Without even an order of magnitude guide, we felt unable to bid.

Sanderson says, ’It allows for a collaborative approach, looking at the creative industries in a collaborative way, instead of leaving it up to the client to stitch everything together.’ I don’t really understand what she means (perhaps she could explain?), but how many design groups would welcome a similar-sized rival scrutinising their accounts, pricing structure and creative strategy?

And let’s not even get started on the idea of doing a free pitch to them. In reality, this contract is going to go to one of a handful of very large creative services groups or a supply-chain management business. We will carefully analyse the shortlisted bidders and offer our 20 years experience of supplying design services to most major Government departments to the organisation we feel is best placed to win.

The DCSF says that eventually all Government design work will go through this new ISP or the Central Office of Information. We hope the next Government (of whatever political persuasion) will support SMEs, and not abandon them in favour of mega-businesses and perceived – as opposed to actual – economies of scale.

Some might find the thought of a private company controlling so much Government money and having so much power over the design industry terrifying. Not the winning ISP shareholders of course – they will be planning a luxurious retirement.

David Bartholomew, Managing director, Folio Creative Communication, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AA

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