BUSINESSES across Wearside will get more chance to win public sector contracts after council bosses unveiled a number of new support measures.
After carrying out a review of how it awards contracts, a new Supplier Charter has been drawn up which commits to helping more local and small businesses to win council work in Sunderland.
The charter – backed by the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) – comes after the council appointed external experts to work with local businesses on an examination of its procurement policy.
Council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “We believe this new Supplier Charter will be of great benefit to local businesses, and help them to access more opportunities for public sector work in Sunderland than ever before.
“We are also committed to having an ongoing dialogue with tendering organisations, so that we can look at our procurement processes on a regular basis and ensure they are as open and accessible to local businesses as possible.
“I am very proud of the outstanding business community we have in Sunderland, and the city council will continually look at new ways we can offer additional support.”
The council’s cabinet has approved a number of new initiatives aimed at supporting business, including:
l More than doubling the limit for contracts which go through the council’s Buy Sunderland First scheme from £75,000 to £173,000.
l Simplifying the pre-qualification questionnaire and documentation process to make it more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses.
l Looking to divide larger contracts into smaller lots, so smaller firms feel able to bid.
l Encouraging firms to give feedback on their experiences, to help keep improving the process.
NECC head of member relations Jonathan Walker said: “This is an extremely important decision by Sunderland City Council and one that will have major benefits to the Wearside and wider North-East economy. The chamber is pleased to have been invited to contribute to such an important and worthwhile initiative and we hope other local authorities will take notice of what Sunderland is doing.”
Ted Salmon, FSB North East regional chairman, added: “The FSB in the North East is a big supporter of the proactive work undertaken by Sunderland City Council to help small and micro businesses win more business with the council.
“It is great to see the city council taking this one step further and agreeing new ways to help more small and micro businesses potentially win contracts with the council.”