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London boroughs must do more to boost the number of smaller businesses selling goods and services to local councils.

The conclusion comes from a detailed review conducted by Harrow Council in conjunction with the London Centre of Excellence into local authority "selling to the council" web pages.

The report finds that while most councils offer guidance on selling, there is "significant" inconsistency in the depth and relevance of the information that is made available. In fact most web pages tend to confuse SMEs as they focused on procurement strategies and policy and were presented in a way that actually discouraged smaller businesses to bid for work.

Also, Little things such as providing the details of appropriate contact in council procurement departments were highlighted.

The most common problems are:

  • Inconsistency in location and naming conventions of web pages
  • Difficulty of navigation through web pages and lack of user-friendly features
  • Need for improved accessibility options
  • Wide variance in the amount of information provided and too much emphasis on procurement policy
  • Limited information aimed specifically at SMEs

The report believes that many of these problems could be avoided if "council websites provide clear, straight forward information of: which services and goods it procures; how it procures; and how to become a supplier, with specific information provided for smaller businesses."

It calls for councils to appoint a SME champion, "someone to act as an ambassador for local community businesses, facilitating their inclusion into the supply chain." The champion would not only be the first point of contact for smaller suppliers, but someone to link council efficiency objectives for procurement to economic regeneration of local communities.

It also sets out a "best practice" checklist for London boroughs to make it easier for smaller supplier to engage in the procurement process.

Read the full report here: London Centre of Excellence: Buying a Better London - Report on Delivery of Workstream 5 (PDF: 1.19MB)

Click for the Best Practice check list (PDF: 82KB).

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