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The beleaguered Solicitors Property Centre Network Services (SPCNS) is nearly out of money and it claims that attempts to launch the first Solicitors Property Centre (SPC) in England were sabotaged by estate agencies.
SPCNS director Tony Bogan says that the first SPC - which will offer a property selling service in house - would have been open by now had the 10 firms involved not been continually gazumped on their new premises.
"The local estate agents were putting in false offers," he says, "so they're obviously worried. It's a cut-throat, dirty world."
He says the locations of other SPCs due to open this year are being kept strictly under wraps to prevent other estate agencies carrying out a similar dirty tricks campaign.
Bogan is adamant that the opening of the first SPC in England is "very close" with several more poised to follow suit. The first centre, however, has been due now for nearly a year and there is still no sign of movement. One centre did come close in the Isle of Wight last autumn, but Bogan says the deal fell through when the two biggest firms involved merged and lost interest.
With no centres yet open to pay the SPCNS a regular licensing fee, money is running short. Bogan admits that the registration fees of up to £750 paid by over 700 firms in 1997 to develop a nationwide marketing strategy and business development plan, have nearly run out.
"The short answer is the people working for SPCNS are funding themselves at the moment," he says.
However, he adds that, with the SPCNS operating out of another office and the half a dozen or so people working only on a part time basis, overheads are fairly low.
Bogan says that the firms' registration fees have not been wasted. "With that money, we have come up with a development plan for the product, a blueprint for the national product as well as dealing with IP and IT concerns. Also, if any group wants to go forward, we will come up with a detailed local business plan. From then on it's largely up to them but we will continue to offer advice and support."