I have previously expressed my view that the local authority and the small business community have very few common points of reference. With a new Labour administration I remained sceptical about the possibilities of real change but it did at least provide for a possibility of one. I became slightly more optimistic following a meeting with the then shadow Economic Development Councilor, Toni Letts OBE. She expressed the view that the small business community was as much a part of Croydon as the rest of the community.
I must however admit to being shocked at the level to which the Council appears to have taken this approach on board.
Presently, very few small businesses apply for Local Government contracts. The bureaucracy, red tape and general cost of applying for the contracts is enough to put most of them off, The rest tend to give up when ongoing reporting requirements are spelt out. The result is large businesses based outside Croydon win most of the Council's work thereby removing massive amounts of our money from the Croydon economy.
THIS HAS CHANGED! Local small businesses, rather than provide a full set of documented policies each time to cover the various anti-discrimination and HR issues before they can be considered for contracts now only need to submit once or commit to ensure the policies are in place before the contracts commence! In essence, we move from exponentially front loading the admin workload to a place where, completing the paperwork will only be required in anticipation of starting a contract.
IT GETS BETTER! if you are small businesses that are capable of providing some of the £400m of services that the Council commission each year, then you will also have developed the skill set to be considered for larger contracts.
THIS MASSIVE OPPORTUNITY FOR CROYDON'S SMALL BUSINESSES is called Value Croydon, and starts with a market place event to be held on 22 January at the Fairfield Halls. Resources are dedicated within the Council to help lead local small business through the process! The Council's Commissioning Support Team is the first point of contact: their e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also only one place to look for information on opportunities: the London Tenders Portal www.londontenders.org
If and when enough local businesses are evaluated as capable of carrying out Council work, the Council will then have the opportunity to put pressure on the City Centre developers to ensure that, whenever possible, the main contractors or any sub-contractors engaged are based locally. It bears repeating that this is the Council's plan not the FSB's!
The Local branch of the FSB has already met with Commissioning & Procurement team and will be arranging training courses for our members over the next few months. But being involved should be a no brainer for everyone. If you are a small business, you need to spend 10 minutes understanding how your business might benefit. If you work for a small business or you have family that own or work for small businesses then you should ensure those who might benefit are aware of it. Even those of you thinking of starting your own business need to understand what this change will mean for you.
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