Local authorities should offer more work to smaller businesses

Compare and contrast with EDDC where big business is favoured and encouraged – remember the East Devon Business Forum consisted mostly of large or very large developers and landowners and favours partnerships with large building companies and developers such as St Modwyn (Skypark).

According to the Federation of Master Builders there should be an increase in spend with small and micro firms across the board and by every public sector body and not just for firms with government contracts. Sarah McMonagle, head of external affairs at the FMB, said: “The Government’s announcement that every £1 in £3 is spent with small businesses is welcome but only applies to central government contracts. “In many parts of the country, it is still the case that small firms are all too often squeezed out by larger competitors when bidding for public sector work.”

Mrs McMonagle added: “There are lots of good reasons why the wider public sector to spend as much as possible with small firms. In particular, using construction SMEs has been proven to provide real local economic and environmental benefits.

“SMEs employ local people, meaning that the money spent is likely to go to local suppliers and remain within the local economy. Furthermore, in the construction sector, two thirds of apprentices are trained by micro firms, meaning that spending more with these businesses could help towards the Government’s target of creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020. An even more ambitious target could go further towards the governments stated aim of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.”

The FMB said while some local authorities and housing associations are better at engaging with SMEs all public sector clients should to set a target for increasing the proportion they spend with SMEs.

Mrs McMonagle said: “Some may already be spending £1 in every £3 but then they should be working towards spending £2 in every £3. One way the wider public sector can boost engagement in public procurement by small firms is to ensure they are implementing the EU Public Procurement Directive which was brought in earlier this year.

“The directive states that public sector clients must break down their contracts into small lots and this makes public contracts much more appealing to small businesses – especially in construction where forming part of the supply chain can be particularly problematic due to late payment.”