How can City of York Council procure work from small businesses easily, with less barriers and what ways can residents and businesses be proactive in approaching the Council with beneficial ideas and products?
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At the moment, feedback from small businesses and the Federation for Small Businesses suggests that it is difficult for Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to bid for and manage contracts for Council services.
In bidding for contracts, SMEs find the paperwork and process of bidding bureaucratic and sometimes difficult to even know what contracts are being tendered. Another problem is the size of contracts that sometimes make it difficult for small local firms to access such opportunities.
In managing contracts, although the Council has a policy of payment in 10 days for local SMEs, for non-local SMEs, the policy is 28 days. Cash flow with SMEs is often quite tight, so such delays in payment can prove problematic for SMEs.
The Council has already implemented a number of improvements, but is looking to build on this progress where possible:
- Transformed the procurement function from a “governance” function to a commercially focussed, team of professional procurement officers from a variety of backgrounds both public and private sector.
- Revised the procurement strategy (attached below) and commenced consultation with a wide audience (never been done in this way before).
- Created a Council Wide contract database which is being used to create a 12-18 month forward plan of procurements which will be advertised on the www.york.gov.uk website to allow people sufficient time to prepare for any tenders which may be of interest.
- Developed a suite of standard documents for tenders, contracts etc which will be launched by Feb 12. It is intended to offer training to potential bidders on each of the documents to “walk through” and explain them in order to remove any barriers to bidding.
At the moment, there is a new web portal being developed by the Council as part of the new York Economic Strategy, as well as a Business Friendly Council initiative, of which this project is a key element. These initiatives are working to simplify the information and support available to businesses to access procurement, and the feedback received from the NESTA process.
What can we do?
We know that these problems affect businesses, particularly SMEs, and the community for and from which these services are procured. Opening procurement up to greater competition from SMEs will have a generally positive impact on smaller firms and in theory, through competition, produce better value for money in the goods and services received by the Council.
Your ideas on how we can tackle these problems and find solutions that aid local businesses are key.