Hundreds of local jobs have been safeguarded after Medway Council cut unnecessary red tape to offer contracts to dozens of small local firms.
The move comes after the council met with the Federation of Small Businesses and asked them to point out what prevents small and medium local firms applying for contracts with them.
The business group said red tape and serial form filling were a barrier to many who either did not have the time, or felt their company was too small to get the work.
Now, as a result of new measures, 20 contracts worth £10.1 million from the council’s adult social care department have been awarded to local firms.
The move is a result of a new council approach to procurement called category management. This new take is aimed at making better use of public money by challenging traditional approaches to procurement so that there is fair competition between small and medium sized businesses and large organisations.
It has also helped cut red tape, for example, relaxing previous rules where businesses were required to provide a parent company or a bond to guarantee their services – things that smaller companies were just not equipped to offer.
In addition, it has saved the council around £1.9million from its budget for homecare and extra care services, beating the £1.4million savings target that had been set at the start of the process.
Under the new procedures, providers of home care (in this instance organisations that employ care workers to go into people’s homes and help with their personal care, for example, getting washed and ready or going shopping) are rated as gold, silver or bronze, based on scores for the quality and affordability of the services they are providing.
Scott Care, based on Medway City Estate has been awarded a gold status for their work as a care provider. The firm was founded 10 years ago in director Julie Scott’s dining room when the then nurse was looking to solve her parents’ care needs.
“We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded a gold status as we have worked hard to achieve it,” said Julie.
“The old system could be very restrictive at times and this new one will enable us to provide a much more cost-effective service in certain areas – savings which will be passed on.
“The new system is very fair and gives providers the opportunity to achieve higher or a motivation to maintain already high standards which is excellent for the people we look after each day.”
Roger House, Regional Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Kent and Medway said: “Local businesses are not just part of the community, they are the local community providing goods and services; generating jobs, opportunity and prosperity in Medway.
“We know there are some excellent small local businesses in Medway and we believe they should be a key part of providing local services. Businesses were telling us that the forms and procedures they needed to follow to gain large contracts were a real barrier and we are glad that through working with the council, we’ve been able to remove some of the obstacles.
“Awarding council contracts to local small businesses offers quicker turnaround time and greater flexibility. It makes good economic sense, good business sense, good environmental sense and it keeps trade and employment in Medway.
Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Services, Cllr David Brake, said: “Above all, our priority is to make sure that our residents are getting the very best services and unfortunately, because of the red tape in place, many local businesses that in fact offer excellent services, had been put off applying for some of our key contracts.
“Now, I am delighted to say that we have not only raised the bar so that only the very best firms will win contracts at an affordable price for the authority, but we have more local firms on board, providing high quality services to local people.”