A SCHEME which will help small businesses win more council contracts was launched last week.
At the heart of Value Croydon is the decision to take a long, hard look at the complexities of the contract bidding process, with the aim of removing obstacles which put small businesses off.
Simon Hall, the council’s cabinet member for finance and treasury, also announced at the Fairfield Halls launch that, from March, small firms would be able to register on the London Portal – which carries contract notifications across the capital – and see details of all Croydon Council’s contracts worth £5,000 or more.
Advertising the lower range contracts more widely will, Mr Hall believes, encourage more smaller companies to seize opportunities to win new business within their realistic reach.
Mr Hall told delegates last Thursday: “This is part of our commitment to making sure the council and its largest suppliers work with Croydon businesses. We want to keep more of the £400 million a year council spending in Croydon.”
He said that giving smaller firms the chance to get a foothold with the council would boost their own business, create more local jobs and, importantly, keep more money in Croydon’s economy.
But Cllr Hall added he recognised the importance of simplifying the bidding and tendering process and it was his intention to ensure it centred mainly on the most important aspects, such as the price and quality of service any bidder would provide.
That would answer the criticism raised at the launch by a number of smaller businesses who have been put off bidding in the past, including Kenley-based Cleankill Environmental Services.
Ian Miller, from Cleankill, said when the business had looked at applying for contracts with the council previously, it had been confronted with mountains of pre-tender and tender documents.
Mr Miller said: “The major companies have teams of people employed permanently to deal with this sort of thing.
“As a smaller company, employing 27 people, we don’t have those kinds of resources.”
His views were echoed by Neelofar Khan, who runs Croydon-based Angel Catering.
She said: “The political will is there at the top, but the problems start when you have to deal with officers at procurement level.”
The mechanisms were often not in place, she said, to make it easy for small firms to submit applications.
Value Croydon will not be aimed simply at small firms, however,
Cllr Hall said companies applying for large contracts would be required to pay the London Living Wage and there would be extra pressures on them to ensure they employed more local people.
Nathan Elvery, the council’s chief executive, had earlier told delegates: “Small and medium-sized enterprises are the lifeblood for employment and it is essential these businesses thrive.”