Meeting SME business owners – FSB

Last night I was the guest speaker at the local FSB AGM. I used to be the branch Chairman so knew a number of the attendees.

It gave me the opportunity to deliver my pro business view on how the council should be performing and I was able to outline some practical help we are giving small business. I include the text of my speech below:

“I have spoken a lot about how we need to make sure that Cambridgeshire is open for business in the six months or so since I became Leader of the county Council.

I think we’ve made a good start on our work there.

Particularly at a strategic level, where we’ve been successful in making sure that money is available for investment in Superfast Broadband.

I hope there will be more good news on that in the coming weeks as our bid for funding goes forward to Broadband UK for approval.

We’ve also secured a Local Enterprise Zone for Alconbury near Huntingdon. I am firmly of the belief that retaining the business rates from the zone for reinvestment is going to be enormously beneficial. I also hope that the opportunity for growing R&D business, and in particular the ‘D’ element, will be boosted by the Zone.

And before anyone mentions the A14, today the Department for Transport has announced that money has been made available to carry out the first two stages of a new survey on the road, with the first phase due to be completed by Christmas.

It’s not extra carriageways or tarmac yet, but it’s good progress, and shows the County Council’s lobbying has paid off and the new Secretary of State for Transport has listened.

So that’s all well and good, and you’ll want to question me on those areas later, but it’s actually not my main focus tonight.

What I really want to look at what the County Council is doing, and plans to do, which can directly benefit small businesses like the ones you run.

And how we’re going to try and do better for you. Put simply, we’re going to get our own house in order.

In the most crude terms, we couldn’t run our business without you.

In the last financial year, nearly 25% of our spend was with local SMEs.

If you include all types of local suppliers that figure rises to 33%. And even then, that’s not taking into account highways sub contractors.

Making life easier for you to do business with us makes perfect sense.

We want to give you every opportunity to do so.

So, we are going to make opportunities more visible, easier, cheaper.

Here’s how we are going to achieve this.

First off, we have increased the visibility of council contract opportunities.

All contracts with the County Council worth over £30,000 are now being advertised on a new website – – which not only ourselves, but also other public services in Cambridgeshire will be using.

We’ll also be encouraging prime subtractors to use it to advertise for sub contractors in the future, and we plan to lower the ceiling for contracts to £20,000 next year.

If you register on the site, you’ll receive an email prompt when the relevant contracts are advertised.

And my message to you is get involved – it’s already proving popular.

Some 200 suppliers have already registered.

We’ll be making little a little easier for business by talking to you more and advising you more.

We know we haven’t done enough of this in the past.

We’re going to increase the number and the relevance of ‘meet the buyer’ events and become more sector specific, and provide more details of planned contract opportunities, as well as guidance on procurement processes.

Now, I mentioned procurement processes there.

We plan to overhaul our tendering systems.

The first stage in this will be the introduction, on a selective basis initially, of an e-tendering system

We know that many of you have been frustrated by the PQQ process.

So, in future, if you want to do business with the council, you will need to go through the PQQ process only once, and then simply amend the form for any subsequent contracts.

We will also give extra marks in our evaluation process for suppliers who will maintain, or create, local employment in Cambridgeshire.

I hope that offers some reassurance about our commitment to business. “

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