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Trading with small and medium sized enterprises (SME's)

Introduction

Dudley MBC is keen to work with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) and assisting local businesses is also an important objective. With guidance from the European Commission, Local Authorities like Dudley MBC are working to ensure that SME’s are involved in tenders and contracts. Dudley recognises that SME’s can provide good value for money and seeks to remove barriers to participation in Council contracts.

 The Council lets a large number of contracts across a broad range of goods and services. These are of varying sizes and values many of which would, and do, stimulate interest from SME’s. Dudley also recognises that it can be advantageous to the Council and to businesses for larger contracts to be let to more than one contractor.

Some of the challenges the Council helps SME’s overcome are:

Opportunities to Win Business

Dudley advertises tender opportunities in the local press (Express & Star newspaper), appropriate trade journals, web portals designed to benefit SME’s such as Contracts Finder, and in the Official Journal of the European Union when applicable.

The Council strongly encourages business to visit the Dudley MBC website as it also details:

The website also allows businesses to express an interest in these tenders and contracts online and to request or forward further information.

General Processes and Procedures

The Council has adopted an electronic tendering system, ‘InTend’, which is an easy-to-use web based system for sending and receiving tender documentation securely. Access to a  PC with internet facility is all a business needs to take part in an ‘eTender’, this exploitation of technology results in efficiency and physical savings for all parties.

The Council aims to make Tender documents easy to understand, make requirements clear and avoid jargon. Tendering instructions including what the supplier has to do to respond to the requirement - information required, format of response, deadline for receipt – are clearly stated as are the criteria against which responses will be evaluated.

Payments to successful contractors are made by a secure ‘BACS’ method rather than raising and posting costly cheques. Purchase Cards are now widely used across the Council. This payment method allows Council staff flexibility in placing orders (e.g. by telephone or via supplier websites) and ensures that suppliers are paid within 2-4 days of receipt of goods or services. Dudley would encourage all suppliers not currently able to accept payment by VISA to implement such a facility.

Treating SME’s Fairly

Business of all kinds should be treated equally and The Small Business (SME) Friendly Concordat is a voluntary, non-statutory code of practice for local government bodies which Dudley has signed up to further demonstrating the Council’s commitment to helping SME’s. The purpose of the Concordat is to set out what small firms and others supplying Local Government can expect when tendering for Local Authority contracts and also sets out the standards that public sector buyers should expect from their suppliers.
Briefly, the concordat gives guidance on:

Ensuring SME’s have access to contract opportunities and that the Council website informs suppliers of tender and contract opportunities and gives guidance on how to trade with the Council.

Giving potential suppliers the opportunity to discuss the procurement process in order to understand the Council’s requirements and assess their own suitability.

How to ensure a fair tender process e.g. use of standard documents, keeping processes simple and minimising costs, publication of evaluation criteria, applying rules and policies fairly.
 
Feedback and complaints procedures.

Contract management e.g. treating suppliers openly and fairly, paying suppliers on time, giving honest and constructive feedback on supplier performance, giving notice of performance problems and the opportunity to put matters right if appropriate.

Summary

Dudley MBC is keen to keep in touch with suppliers and regularly participates in events such as ‘Meet the Buyer’ where businesses of all kinds can introduce themselves to purchasing staff from several local authorities to promote their goods and services and discuss any concerns they may have in competing in the public sector.

Communication is key and the Council does inform local business on important issues they need to be aware of. For example Dudley believes it is important for businesses to have a Business Continuity Plan in place to plan for disruptions caused by major incidents.  

Dudley is able to keep in touch with local business issues and consider best practice through participation and communication with regional groups such as:

Further information is also available via:-

 

Contacts