Design Council acts on Government buying

The Design Council has taken a stride forward in its bid to encourage better design procurement policies by the public sector.

At a meeting held in London last week it brought together representatives from a dozen Government departments and the Civil Service College, the Confederation of British Industry, the Design Business Association, the Chartered Society of Designers and organisations from the public sector to thrash out a three-pronged action plan for the future.

Among the Government departments represented were the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, whose Economic Secretary Angela Knight co-chaired the meeting with design minister Ian Taylor.

Training is a key element in the plan and a programme for civil servants at all levels is being worked on with the Civil Service College. Alexis Brooks, a lecturer in procurement at the college, is working with the council to assess what is needed and how to implement it – a process expected to take “about a year”.

The plan acknowledges a need for design “champions” in organisations, and the council will look at how this has worked in quasi-public bodies such as BAA and BT to evolve a model for public authorities.

Finally, ways of promoting design’s contribution in terms of cost-effectiveness and other benefits are being looked into.

A Design Council spokesman describes the plan as a “vital governmental initiative”. He says: “It’s very important that we’ve got people in Government and key organisations to help us.” He cites the involvement of Knight, who is responsible for the Central Unit on Purchasing at the Treasury as a major coup.

The next stage, he says, will be for the Design Council to set up the three projects, through consultation with participants in the plan, and drive them forward. The council is allocating “a significant amount” of money set aside to fund the initiative in its next budget round, due to be settled “in a month or two”.

DBA director Ian Rowland-Hill says this is “a terrific initiative”. He adds: “The Design Council has made some real progress by getting Government ministers and significant people from the procurement side involved.”

He is not yet sure of the exact role the DBA will have in implementing the plan, but sees “plenty of scope”, particularly in training.

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