For many years Powys County Council has provided an important service on behalf of the Assembly Government, dealing with enquiries for advice from businesses. The service has been delivered under the banner 'Business Eye'. After a tendering process, the Assembly Government decided to transfer the service from the Council to an out-of-county operation named 'Business in Focus'. The new service was to begin operating from 1st April. But I've just been told that the deal has fallen apart, and with just one day to go to 'Launch Day', the 'Business in Focus' service has been withdrawn. Can it really be that in the midst of the most serious economic downturn in living memory, there may be no system of dealing with enquiries for business advice available in Mid Wales from tomorrow (Business in Focus had won the contact for Meirionydd and Ceredigion as well.
I'm told that the problem revolved around the future of the existing 'Business Eye' employees. The Council believed they were being transferred to 'Business in Focus' (on the same terms and conditions) - while the latter believed no such thing. It seems the contract was awarded on terms so noncommercial that the tender winner cannot proceed. On the surface, there appears to have been something shambolic about the way that this has been handled. The Assembly Government may well say that this turn of events has come as a complete surprise - which would not be true. I wrote to the Assembly's Business Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones about ten days ago outlining the problem. No reply of course.
If all this is true (and I believe it is) we should know about it, and I would expect there to be one almighty row. Lets hope this post will enable the sniffer dogs in the Welsh media to start poking around tomorrow and find out what's been happening - and lets local business know where it should go for advice from this week.