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?
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:
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.
Replies are closed for this discussion.
Challenge #3 is now open. Whether your an owner of a small or medium business, an employee or budding entrepenuer, we want to here your ideas as to how the Council improve it's working relationships with local & small business.
Whilst we all want openness in the procurement process, most SMEs do not have the time or resources for a long bidding process. They will simply enter another market to sell their goods and services
How would you shorten it?
I was wondering about an online submission form that auto-fills all your basic details, saved from when you register 1st time, so all you have to complete is your product/service solution? What do you reckon would help?
This is an excellent point, Simon - something that we do need to do everything we can to minimise. There are obviously regulations within which we have to work, but within these parameters, there is hopefully some room for streamlining.
Another related point is the amount of paperwork that businesses often find themselves having to produce for procurement processes and the extent to which these requirements vary from public sector organisation to organisation. Although ambitious, it would be great to see some level of coordination between public sector organisations in terms of procurement requirements.
I Had a look over the draft procurement doc and it is really encouraging!! Some bold steps and a real shift in the right direction - great stuff.
One thing I would suggest to make it even better would be to think about a 'germination pot' - a small amount of money put aside to use to trial, pilot or prototype new ideas, when it isn't a straightforward procurement ask. The procurement model could then sometimes operate more like the 'idea generation then refinement' process that is taking place in this GeniUS project. Do a test bed, pilot first with the 2 top company bids for the work, then afterwards pick the one you want to go with. This may also allow very small businesses who are either under 3 years trading or not ltd. to 'prove themselves' through a pilot? It would de-risk more radical ideas and might result in better solutions?
The type of process, i.e. either straightforward procurement of one supplier, vs the pilot of 2 and then contracting of one, could be made clear on the web site when procurement opportunities are placed up.
It would also allow for time to tweak the product/services developed during the initial pilot phase to better fit the specific circumstances here in York. Lastly it would encourage competition, would build relationships between suppliers and the council through closer working.
Is it do-able within the EU regs? What do you think?
p.s. one last thought before I get off the platform. If you have a procurement plan finalised 12-18 months in advance, how can you plan for procuring things that haven't been identified yet? I know in education right now their problem is that they are having to teach courses to students for jobs that haven't been invented yet, everything is moving so fast now, so maybe a bit of flexibility in future procurement 12-18 months away would allow for new tech/ideas to be exploited? ok I am gone...
Some good ideas, Heather - and would inject a bit of the private sector approach to funding innovative ideas into the council. We'll have to check against the EU regs as you suggest, but it could more readily demonstrate a willingness from the Council to encourage innovation.
Money for social value already exists - normally through small grant funders, but doesn't fulfill the whole need. Using procurement to start new things, strengthen ideas or give backing to things that are going to take some time is a great idea. Start by releasing info on £5,000 contracts (this is rediculiously difficult right now) and let the info seep out. Give it some public transparency without making it into the full blown participatory budgeting process. keep it simple, keep it quick and you'll get some different ideas coming through..
For my 2p, I'd recommend this article on pro-social procurement.. https://socialenterprise.guardian.co.uk/social-enterprise-network/2...
Some interesting approaches in the link, Casey - these examples make it clear that it is indeed possible to work within legislation to achieve a better system/ethos of procurement. One of the debates is how to enable more local businesses to get involved in procurement opportunities - and some of these ideas are a useful starting point - working from the sustainability angle - of achieving this.
How about identifying the products and services York businesses are selling into emergent markets and providing accompanying material on the wider york offer? A short high quality concertina card with QR code and website address? Objectives - visitor economy, inward investment and export growth.