DTI review may drown SME voice

Under a reshaped DTI, the Small Business Service, set up as the voice of the UK’s small and medium-sized companies, will no longer report directly to Patricia Hewitt, minister for trade and industry.

The issue has been compounded because David Irwin, head of the Small Business Service, has decided not to renew his contract. He will step down next March, just a year after taking on the role, while speculation persists he will be replaced by a minor civil servant with no authority.

His decision to leave was influenced because he is understood to have become frustrated at the slow pace at which the SBS moves, while his job has turned into one of ‘delivery not policy.’

Theresa Graham, Baker Tilly partner and SBS national steering board member, said Irwin did not see how he fitted in to the new structure. She added: ‘The job is very different to what he thought it was going to be, and he has largely been unable to use his skills.’

Clive Lewis, ICAEW head of the SME unit, added: ‘After the initial announcement by the DTI, [the SBS] was the first casualty of the review. There are concerns about where the SBS will fit in and what sort of person will head it.’

The DTI said that no decision had yet been taken as to Irwin’s replacement, but a spokesperson disputed rumours that the SBS would be relegated. ‘The SBS is to be strengthened. It will have a strong presence in the regions and a business presence, but a slightly different reporting role.’

Irwin achnowledged he was leaving due to DTI restructuring.


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