The rebranding of BERR: A good move or a waste of money?

Dan Martin
Former editor
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Amid all the talk over Sir Alan Sugar's appointment as Gordon Brown's new Enterprise Tsar/Champion/Celebrity/Overlord* (*delete as appropriate), the rebranding of the government department with which he'll have the most dealings slipped through almost unnoticed.

I'd just about got used to the mouthful that is the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), a creation which resulted from the rebranding of the old Department for Trade and Industry in June 2007. But now I've got to remember a new acronym following the merger of BERR with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), another section of the government set up just under two years ago at a cost to the taxpayer of £7m.

The three letters I now need to keep in mind are BIS or to give it its official title; Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Ministers claim that the new super department, headed up by Lord Mandelson, is designed to help the UK out of the recession. Not a bad thing I suppose but do we really need another rebranding?

This is by no means the first time the business department has changed its name.

It was rebranded the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry (DPEI) in 2005 but just seven days later ministers reverted back to the DTI after strong protests from business groups and comments that DPEI looked like 'Dippy' and 'Penis'. The whole process cost £30,000.

Two years later BERR arrived with ministers spending £218,063 on stationery changes, new signage, updated email addresses and the like.

Now we have BIS.

One can presume that the cost of creating the new department will be the same if not more than that involved in the birth of BERR. Admittedly, with the kind of figures involved with government bailouts, a quarter of a million pounds is a drop in the ocean but to me it still seems like a big waste of money.

Ironically, the fact the BIS is so big and has responsibility for so many areas, there is a risk that key issues may be skirted over. The removal of 'regulatory reform' from the title is particularly worrying although the press release accompanying the announcement did claim that "a sound regulatory environment" is one of the department's concerns.

The government says that the idea of BIS has been around for a while. "It is the institutional realisation of the approach to promoting UK competitiveness and productivity" as set out in a White Paper produced in April, it argues. I however get the impression that amid all the furore over Cabinet resignations and Gordon Brown's future as prime minister, BIS is really another rushed through measure which will change little.

What small business entrepreneurs need right now is for the authorities to spend as much time as possible putting together proper targeted assistance to see them through what are undoubtedly some of the worst economic conditions for decades. Ultimately, business owners don't really care what the name of the organisation is that provides that help but they do care that the powers that be aren't wasting time sat around a table brainstorming new acronym.


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By Malcolmevans
10th Jun 2009 16:07
All of this is so true - we find it in Central Government with this absurd assumption that room upon room full of civil servants can genuinely have much of an influence on enterprise and growth. We find it throughout the devolved, local "support networks" with thousands of fourth rate mentors. We find it throughout academia with ream upon ream of self-referential "research". We find it deeply embedded within Local Government, where office fulls of "regeneration" teams fantasise about influencing major international flows of capital into obscure brownfield sites. It is the sheer hauteur of overly big government; the notion that political will can bend everything to its will. As the article said, these resources need to be channelled directly into people who are tyring to make a difference, not into facile rebrandings. Good article. -- Malcolm Evans The Culturship Practice Corporate Culture Specialists
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