Government “Must Heed the North East Chamber of Commerce Warning Over Barriers to Business Growth”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (7th March 2012) warned Government Ministers to heed the warnings being made by
the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) over ministerial barriers to public procurement opportunities open to local businesses.

Tom said “the NECC is the representative voice of business and industry in the North East and anything they say is based on that lead position.

They have now issued a document on public procurement and the opportunities for local firms to get into pole position to secure state contracts. However, they also instanced a number of areas where Ministerial policies were blocking the ability of local firms to compete effectively.

Amongst the issues they identified was in the education sector. They instanced as an example the National Framework for Academies programme run
by Partnership for Schools for constructing academy schools. In their words “This is split into North and South panels, but nine of the 12 companies
involved in each are identical. Turnover requirements meant North East firms with strong experience of building schools locally were unable to make
it onto the framework and have therefore missed out on opportunities which fit squarely within their expertise”.

They also instance the pressure to centralise public buying elsewhere in the state sphere. They instanced issues within the NHS where the laid down
approach to procurement is centred around encouraging greater use of national NHS Supply Chain contracts. NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson has stated his aim is to ensure the NHS Supply Chain offer is so good that trusts “cannot not use it”. This means that a London based civil service will increasingly be central to the securing of long term business contracts – and possibly, yet again, a southern bias in awards.

It is not as if there is no local expertise in purchasing development and building structures where local businesses and suppliers can meet potential
purchasers. In local government, we have had, for many years, bodies like the North East Purchasing Organisation (NEPO) and the Yorkshire Purchasing
Organisation (YPO) both of which have built up expertise and unrivalled contact books. Their work, together with the mentoring and advisory role of
bodies like the NECC and the Federation of Small Businesses can deliver results here in the region, and I believe that government is missing a trick
if they do not take this expertise on board.”

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