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23 April 2013 | Helen Gilbert
A new initiative designed to help small and local businesses become more competitive in the public sector tender process has been set up by Cornwall Council.
The Cornwall Supplier Development Programme, which launched last week, will host webinars on pre-qualification questionnaires and tender completion, framework contracts and other topics and conduct drop-in sessions, where suppliers can meet procurement officers on an individual basis.
Under the scheme, supplier newsletters, guides and a forward plan of forthcoming tender processes will be published, while a ‘Meet Cornwall’s Buyers’ event will be staged in September, where representatives from Cornwall’s public sector procurement teams will provide information on tendering opportunities.
“Often small and local businesses are able to offer a high-quality service at a good price but they struggle to sell themselves in such a way as to succeed when submitting a tender,” David Morgan, Cornwall Council’s procurement officer (policy) told Supply Management.
“This should provide a comprehensive package to help businesses decide if public sector contracts are right for them, if they are ready to tender, and how they can submit the best possible tender.”
Morgan also described the programme as a good opportunity to build relationships with local business groups such as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.
Ann Vandermeulen, development manager for the FSB in Cornwall said the barrier to small businesses gaining public sector contracts was often a “lack of knowledge of the processes involved in tender applications”.
“Then, even more often, there is the fact that it seems so complicated once they look into it that the time and effort outstrips the benefits of even making the first approach,” she said.
“This is a welcome move by Cornwall Council which has recognised the issues and is actively doing something to assist small businesses in accessing another pretty large and so far untapped revenue stream.”
Last year, the authority spent 47 per cent of its £480 million procurement budget with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), with 44 per cent of its procurement budget – some £209 million- spent with 5,551 suppliers based in Cornwall.