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Shropshire Council among leaders for supporting small businesses

Telford | News | Published:

Small businesses are more likely to scoop contracts with Shropshire Council than almost any other local authority in England and Wales, a new report has claimed.

The new index released by the Centre for Entrepreneurs found that the authority spent £78.7 million of its £369.8 million company spend with small businesses over the last three years – a rate of 21.28 per cent, placing it sixth in the list of 150 authorities, and third among councils in England behind Stoke-On-Trent and Windsor and Maidenhead.

By contrast, Telford & Wrekin ranked in 133rd place with a rate of 8.66 per cent – the authority paid £28.3 million of its £326.8 million company budget to small firms.

Nationally, Monmouthshire County Council was the highest performing with a 25.6 per cent rate, and Barnsley ranked lowest at 4.2 per cent.

According to the report, just 20 large companies earned £9.9bn from English and Welsh councils in three years, while 78,128 small firms shared an £11.1bn pot over the same period.

However, Telford & Wrekin Council spokesman Russell Griffin said the council was working to ensure that it was opening out its contracts to businesses of all sizes, and that capital projects meant that big companies would make use of smaller businesses and sub-contractors.

"Our procurement rules have been changed to advertise all requirements over £5,000 on our web page and via Twitter, to lift tender thresholds, and abolish minimum turnover for lower risk contracts," he said.

"Meet the buyer and pre tender engagement sessions are regularly held to ensure small business are familiar with the public sector procurement before any formal invitation is issued. We held a number of these events to support our taxi providers tender, for example. For major contracts we actively engage the supply chain and facilitate communication with larger companies at the earliest point."

Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow said the report made "great reading". It does not include the council's spending with its own spun-off service provider, IP&E.

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"In recent years we've made it easier for local small businesses to gain contracts from Shropshire Council," he added.

"We've changed our procurement rules to make sure, for example, that for all small contracts staff must get a quote from at least one local firm – and if they can't do this they have to prove why it is not possible.

"We now announce each year at our annual Business Summit our percentage of spend with local companies, not just SMEs. This year it has reached 64 per cent and in fact it has gone up in each of the last few years."

While the study is not an exhaustive list, it covers at least 70 per cent of each authority's transactions, with a total value of just over £1 trillion.

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