Councillors have considered a report outlining the City of Edinburgh Council’s small business spend over the last year, following a motion by Small Business Champion Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron.
At close to £156m, almost 23% of the Council’s procurement spend was with small businesses across 2019 and there are plans to strengthen this as part of Edinburgh’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The report comes as the Council reaches a new milestone in the Coronavirus Business Support funding it is providing to businesses. Over £104m in grants has now been issued to more than 8,200 business owners. This is in addition to £874,000 which has been issued to almost 600 newly self-employed workers since 30 April 2020, with more applications in progress.
While the Council’s procurement spend in 2019 with small businesses was up £21m from the year before, Councillors recognised the importance of prioritising SME procurement spend where possible to further boost the local economy as the city adapts to the circumstances brought about by the current global situation.
As well as adjusting its procurement processes to make Council contracts more accessible to local SMEs and the third sector, the Council has committed to working with ALEOs and other key stakeholders to continue supporting small and local businesses. Measures include engagement workshops and events, training to assist businesses bidding for public sector contracts and making sure that local companies who are unsuccessful in bidding for contracts are given constructive feedback.
Council Leader, Adam McVey, said: “Small and local businesses are the lifeblood of our city and getting them back up and running is one of the key priorities of our Adaptation and Renewal Programme as we move into the next phase of lockdown and as Edinburgh recovers from the pandemic. We will continue to increase support through our procurement processes and to consider other ways in which we can encourage the return of small business across Edinburgh in all industries, including hospitality and tourism.
“The measures discussed at Committee are complemented by other activity such as the regulatory work we’re doing to make licencing more flexible for businesses and by the Spaces for People programme which has been designed to encourage residents to come and spend time in the city, supporting local businesses while doing so. Coordinated measures like these show how critical it is that activity implemented through the Council’s different strands of work are joined up properly.”
Councillor Lezley Marion Cameron, the Council’s Small Business Champion, added: “Whilst we must properly adhere to procurement rules and legislation, our Sustainable Procurement Strategy enables us to direct Council spending towards positive economic, social and environment outcomes. This strategy will also bolster our efforts to tackle the significant challenges we now face; including the recession forecast, arising from the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
“It is vital that we do everything we can to support business, protect jobs and build sustainable resilience into the Edinburgh economy and its recovery. I hope today’s decision to welcome the report and agree a target of 25% for Council third party supplier spending with small businesses (currently 22.7%) is welcomed by Edinburgh SMEs.”