Uncertain future for troubled CBS

The Government has delayed the launch of its Consultancy Brokerage Service, which has so far only attracted an estimated 200 applicants across nine disciplines – a fraction of its original target of 10 000.

The Labour Party has slammed the CBS for failing to meet the needs of industry. Jack Cunningham MP, shadow trade and industry secretary, says: “This scheme is obviously not working. It shows a lack of understanding about the design industry and its significance to the UK economy.”

The CBS was set up by the Department of Trade and Industry to provide a national network of consultancy services including design to be referred to by Business Links counsellors (DW 25 November 1994). Due to be in operation by this spring, it now has no official launch date and will not start until it is up to reasonable numbers, says a DTI spokeswoman.

The CBS sent out applications in January to consultancies across nine management disciplines. The DTI refused to reveal how many of the 200 applicants are design consultancies.

The Chartered Society of Designers is advising members not to join the CBS. “It is effectively not functioning,” says CSD director Brian Lymbery, who accuses the DTI of ignoring advice from design industry bodies.

Pamela Frazer, director of Frazer Design, sat on the DTI advisory group on Business Links and blames the poor uptake on the high registration charges: “It’s too expensive, it’s unproven and the returns are very doubtful.”

She knows of no design group which has applied to the service. “It has struck all of us as a money-making exercise,” she adds.

A DTI spokeswoman for the CBS says the registration fees are equal to a designer’s day’s work.

Jack Cunningham calls for the service to be reviewed as soon as possible. The DTI spokeswoman claims that while the service is not under review, “people are coming forward with comments and suggestions”.

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