Falkirk Council is above the Scottish average when it comes to spending its money with local firms.
From care homes to building materials, the council has considerable spending power at its disposal – £224 million in fact, as a new report shows.
It is only the second year that public bodies have been required to publish procurement figures but already Falkirk Council is seeing a bit of a trend as local spending climbs to £69 million.
That’s 4.5 per cent more with local suppliers than the Scottish average and £14 million more than they spent locally two years ago. Procurement and commissioning manager William McQuillian says that figure is “about right” because only spending money locally would not be good value for the council.
Some procurement – such as school stationery and catering – is done nationally, as the spending power of all 32 councils together is unbeatable. On other jobs, they’ll work with close neighbours, usually Stirling and Clackmannanshire or West Lothian.
“We wouldn’t want to go too far from the Scottish average so I’d say we’re on the right side of the line,” he said.
“But if you look at the figures you’ll also see that Falkirk firms get a lot of business from other councils so it more than evens out.”
In fact, more than £185 million of income is earned by Falkirk-based businesses supplying the 32 councils across Scotland - the area’s central location making it an ideal base to supply many areas.
The procurement process is done to strict national standards – which means they can’t favour Falkirk firms or give any advice once the process has started.
The basic rule is that every deal done must be fair and totally transparent.
Once over £50,000 is being spent, they must advertise the contract on the website Public Contract Scotland (PCS) and as the amounts rise, so do the number of checks to be done before the money is spent. What they can do – and what they are doing – is speak to firms who might have goods, services and works to offer the council and make sure they know how to bid for contracts and what is expected of them.
Getting local firms involved makes good business sense as the supply chain is less likely to be hampered by such things as bad weather or transport issues.
“What we have been doing over the past three or four years is linking with our colleagues in economic development who are working with start-ups, offering access to training, support and mentoring,” said Mr McQuillian.
“We’ve been attending some of these events where we talk to them about how procurement works.” They also have a supplier development programme and so far this year contacted more than 700 local businesses to tell them more about it.
Council-wide changes such as swapping white paper for a duller colour and maintaining printers and photocopiers rather than replacing them have added up to nearly half a million pounds available to be spent elsewhere. But better procurement has also helped departments make nearly £7 million worth of savings.