County invests in supporting growth of local businesses

This story was published 9 June 2021

North Yorkshire has joined forces with other authorities in the region to support and guide local small businesses in securing work in the public sector.

Car Les meeting Tom Willoughby employees

The County Council, alongside City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council and Barnsley Council, is working with local organisation Go4Growth to develop the business marketplace and support for the voluntary sector.

The authorities are committed to helping smaller organisations to enter or grow their market share in the public sector. They recognise the need to provide more support and guidance for these organisations that can find securing work in the public sector disproportionately harder than their larger competitors.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) are the lifeblood of our local economy,” said County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les. “As we recover from the pandemic and rise to the challenge of Brexit, we believe there has never been a more important time to support local businesses. Our local supply chains are essential for our local communities and high streets.

“Local suppliers create jobs and prosperity in North Yorkshire. Our support at such a difficult time goes some way towards helping them to bounce back and to play their part in the growth of the county’s economy, post-pandemic.”

North Yorkshire County Council spent £215m with local businesses last year, highlighting its contribution to the county’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. It supports nearly 2,100 companies based in North Yorkshire and the City of York through its procurement activities and has increased its spend with local SMEs each year since 2015.

The four authorities are funding the Go4Growth programme, so businesses can join and take the support, guidance, tools and resources on offer with no cost to them. Join the Go4Growth programme.

“Our collective ambition is to attract and work with a diverse range of organisations,” said Cllr Les. “The programme will ensure businesses have the skills they need to work in our local and regional areas and beyond. We are already learning from businesses that are engaging with the programme. As this number grows, so will our knowledge and ability to make improvements.”

Gillian Askew, co-founder of Go4Growth, said: “We are delighted to be working with these authorities in Yorkshire to help support organisations to be able to find and secure work in the public sector marketplace. This is really important work, which has only increased in priority and urgency in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The County Council buys a wide range of goods, works and services, including adult and children’s social care, IT, utilities, food and transport. It considers ‘social value’ – such as job creation, skills development, access to technology and reduction in waste to landfill – as part of the buying process.

HCS Mechanical Services, which celebrated its centenary last year, has been contracted by the county council for more than ten years to provide building services, including heating, ventilation, plumbing and electrics.

Commercial director Ashley Smith said: “The great thing about a council contract is that we are always paid on time and we can pass that on to other local businesses in our supply chain.

“Throughout the pandemic, it has been a massive boost that the work has continued to come through from the council. We were classed as essential workers, so it has meant the business can run as normal. We have had to change the way we operate, of course, but it has allowed us to operate throughout the pandemic.”

The company operates across the county for the county council. It has bases in Northallerton and Skipton and the vast majority of its engineers live as well as work in the county.

Andrew Digwood, president of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and a partner at law firm Rollitts, said: “Y&NY Chamber welcomes the commitment to supporting businesses in the region – particularly the SME sector – that is being demonstrated by NYCC through its procurement programme.  

“We’re always impressed by the range and quality of goods and services that our members across the region provide, and it’s good to see that recognised by the council.

“Like the council, the chamber is also keen to promote the ‘social good’ that local businesses can deliver, and our Raising The Bar scheme benchmarks and rewards businesses for providing exactly the sorts of social benefits that NYCC is looking to encourage in its procurement process.”

Construction company Tom Willoughby Ltd has had contracts with the County Council for more than 20 years. The firm, which has its head office in Northallerton and regional offices in, Harrogate, Catterick and Leeming, provides maintenance for council buildings, including schools, care homes and offices.

Managing director Darren Johnson said: “The County Council contract is massive for us. We have over 20 people employed on the contract full-time, dedicated to that work, so it is hugely important to us. Every single one of those employees is a North Yorkshire resident. They quite often live and work in their communities, which we find is a benefit, because there is a greater sense of ownership.”

The local approach goes beyond staff.

“Our supply chain is selected from a similar area wherever possible,” said Darren. “The reason is two-fold. It’s putting money back into the local economy, that is key, but it’s also about environmental issues, minimising travel and our carbon footprint.”

He says the County Council can be a hard but fair taskmaster and is approachable in dealing with any problems.

“They want their money’s worth, which you would expect, because it is taxpayers’ money and everyone has a responsibility for that, including us,” he said. “They are a very important client for us, and a trusted client.”

The County Council’s award-winning procurement and contract management service works with partners and suppliers to deliver efficiencies, value for money and sustainable quality for communities across the county.

We launched the Buy Local initiative at the start of the pandemic to encourage residents and businesses to support local suppliers during the Covid-19 restrictions. Since launch, more than 900 businesses have registered with the free online directory. Trading standards vets applicants before listing.

The County Council also launched an instant payments scheme for SMEs to help with their cash flow during the downturn.