Black Country Chamber has moved a step closer to clinch-ing £16 million of business link contracts - but its preferred supplier status has sparked fears over job losses.

The Chamber won the £3 million contract to supply Gateway services as part of a radical revamp of business l ink provision in the Midlands.

It was also a member of a consortium to supply Core and Enterprise Brokerage services, in a deal which could rise to £13 million.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry was part of that consortium, along with Coventry and Warwick-shire Chamber, Business Link West Mercia and Stafford-shire Business Support.

John Lamb, a spokesman for BCI, said: "We are delighted with the outcome of the bid. We have been running business link services for a while now and this is an endorsement of our excellent track record."

The wins were announced by Advantage West Midlands, which has taken overall charge of the business link operation and forced through the change. But fears remain some jobs could be lost amid a streamlining, while the location of any new premises has yet to be confirmed.

Nick Paul, chairman of AWM, said: "I think that clearly there is going to be an impact. It is frankly too early to say the absolute impact in terms of worker numbers."

Mike Beardsmore, chairman of Black Country Chamber, said: "Once people know things are going to change they occasionally leave.

"We have got to make sure we don't lose the best people who can provide the best advice. The knowledge of our people was just as important in securing this contract as the technology we use."

The new Gateway scheme will provide initial information to companies, while the West Midlands Brokerage Service will match companies to advisors.

The shake-up is part of a new initiative by AWM to create a single integrated blueprint for the next three years.

The five business link operations in the Midlands, which were previously run by individual chambers, came under the control of AWM in April 2005 which decided to adopt a region-wide service from April 2007.

AWM invited companies to take part in a robust bidding process for the contract to provide these services in four areas; Gateway, Core Brokerage, Enterprise Brokerage and Manufacturing Support. The Manufacturing Advisory Service West Midlands was given preferred bidder status to provide the latter.

Speaking at Dunstall Park Racecourse, Wolverhampton, Mr Paul said: "What we are trying to do is create a onestop shop for business."

AWM claims the £40 million budget has not been used efficiently enough and is keen to save taxpayers money.

A spokesman for AWM said: "There are two key challenges for the West Midlands: increasing productivity and the fact that not enough people are starting up in business.

"If we can consolidate business link services we can save a lot of money which we can then re-invest in advisors because that us what we really need."

John Reader, chief operating officer of Black Country Chamber, said: "We were always confident that our bid was strong and that we have the skills and talent here in the Black Country to make it happen."

A spokesman for AWM said: "Black Country Chamber are going to have to make some pretty fundamental improvements.

"They were not doing a bad job - it is just that they need to work inside some new frameworks."