COUNCILS like Croydon have been urged to support small businesses by steering more contracts their way.
The "keep it local" message was delivered by John Walker, former national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to a question time session attended by around 100 local businesspeople last Thursday (April 25). The meeting at the Braithwaite Hall, in Katharine Street, was organised by the FSB in conjunction with the Institute of Directors, business support organisation Growth Accelerator, and Croydon Council.
Mr Walker said there was definite need for local councils to give more consideration to providing business for smaller local firms, rather than simply going to large companies.
He said: "Councils should be helping to keep the money flowing around the local economy rather than it being siphoned to other parts of the country or even abroad.
"Councils are spending a lot of our money; let's keep it in the local community."
Cllr Vidhi Mohan, the council's cabinet member for communities and economic development said in awarding contracts, the council was often governed by rules from the European Union.
He said: "Some of our contracts like street cleaning are large value and there is need for large companies to run them."
But, he added, the council was keen to support local businesses where possible and had introduced an element of "social value" into the procurement procedure.
Commitment to adding to social benefits to their contracts, such as employing local people or offering training, can help a local smaller firm in the bidding stakes.
Cllr Mohan told the meeting he believed the council's main role in supporting local businesses was by acting as a facilitator.
He said: "We are helping create a partnership bringing businesses and funders together so there is an atmosphere where businesses can grow and thrive."
This work includes plans to set up, with support from London mayor Boris Johnson, an innovation centre which would provide start-up businesses with office space and support services.