It’s time to ditch feeble excuses and move on

We were surprised to have the power of the press confirmed last week by no less a figure than a Government minister. When junior trade minister Richard Page wrote to his Labour shadow Barbara Roche that the Consultancy Brokerage Service had been dropped because of “hostile articles” in the trade press, he credited us with clout we weren’t entirely sure we had.

If factual reporting can be deemed hostile, then yes, it’s our fault that the 3m scheme was scrapped. It had nothing to do with the fact that the CBS was unnecessarily complex or that the application form was barely comprehensible. Nor did the high fees for consultancies registering with the service put most design groups off.

But, much as we like the idea of wielding power over the politicians, we’re inclined to agree that Page’s excuse for the CBS’s demise is “a cop-out”, as Roche said in last week’s Financial Times.

I wonder if “hostile” is the way Page and his cohorts will describe the latest assault on Government initiatives for delivering design to small businesses? Will he see Middlesex University’s Prodesign project (see News, page 4) as a help or a hindrance to the Department of Trade and Industry’s own Business Link network?

If Prodesign’s leader Geoffrey Spyer has it right, this new scheme will salve many ills. It will provide local business with unadulterated advice on design and help Middlesex design graduates carve out a creative niche for themselves while their contemporaries nationwide find it harder to take that first step. And if Spyer and friends can rope in the support of more experienced designers, subscribing firms will get strategic ideas and marketing thoughts thrown in as a matter of course.

The Middlesex team has already convinced the European Union it has a strong offer, and it’s set itself a healthily tight timescale in which to perform. The only caution must be that Prodesign, as what is essentially a college-based initiative, must balance any hint of the ivory tower with real world input if it is to be truly effective.

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