The question of whether local councils should offer work to local businesses in their catchment first has become a major National talking point. Shaz Nawaz is a Peterborough Local Labour politician with business experience in accountancy and he, quite rightly, has raised this for debate.
Quite by chance I had the opportunity to speak on National Radio 2 – Jeremy Vine show about how local councils engage with businesses like mine. You can hear my interview – click here
There’s always going to be opinions on each side, all I know is in the 29 years I have run my printing business in Peterborough, I can count on one hand the number of times Peterborough City Council have ever commissioned work from me. Yet I know I can make a difference and save them money.
With the years of technical knowledge I have gained and the insight I have in the many positive ways print can work in our modern world, I find it remarkable that I have had little to no engagement with their marketing, communications or procurement departments. In the commercial world it is very different. We have to find savings for our customers. They do not have a finite budget and the print world is fighting for it’s marketing rights against very fast and aggressive internet platforms. Print works in powerful ways but it needs steering, planning and with that a good local supplier is a major advantage. I cannot understand how Peterborough City council can send work to a faceless national print administration company outside of the city to deliver what it needs locally, it just doesn’t make any sense!
David Seaton of Peterborough local council recently publicly stated that when carrying out work for the council “any new supplier would need to meet council ‘standards’“. Well I am completely unaware of what that means. I have never been offered any information/expectations/ guidelines etc relating to their ‘standards’. Our credibility in our market sector are our standards, for many commercial clients we serve, that is enough. I am clear that I know nothing about what they expect but equally they have made no effort to find out what we can offer. With no engagement how would the council know about our standards? My company contributes locally in so many ways. We actively support local charities and social groups, we help young people to understand the role print has in education, marketing and the environment. We follow a sustainability code with environmentally conscious guidelines. Our investment in this city is assured as we employ locally. I am a volunteer trustee on two local charities who benefit from my commercial guidance for free. We are members of a National Professional Print body who supports and advises on our ethical business stance. We have won 2 National Print Awards for quality and innovation in our industry, I personally sit on a National interview panel responsible for supporting and mentoring young talent for grant funding in the Graphic Arts, and when I throw in, that I am also a Freeman of the City of London for services to print and marketing I think our credibility at local council level should be assured.
So when I see words like “local businesses need to meet council standards” I wonder what more does a business need to do?
David also stated that where council purchases are involved “one invoice for multiple goods is cheaper than multiple invoices for individual goods” Well I think this is a questionable statement to make. Where possible we always issue individual invoices per item- its a matter of transparency, this transparency is for everyone’s benefit, it means the client can clearly see the costs and question them if required and we can trace accountability our end. Print management companies (who typically source print work for local councils (PCC included)) raise multiple invoices, which confusingly shrouds everything within an overall invoice making it almost impossible to scrutinize costs. With this being public money I would have thought transparency would be a key benefit when buying locally.
Our ethos in business is to produce a quality product and give the customer value for money. Timescales will always effect things but, in essence that mission statement is our mantra. When local councils talk about not being able to cut back and still refuse to source their products locally then they are missing a great commercial advantage. Quality assured, the advantage of time in dealing locally will inevitably bring the savings.
My company, like many others in Peterborough offer crucial support for local commerce and community services, often stepping in at last minute to supply goods and services when others can’t help. Recently Preston Council has proved that the process of buying locally first – works. It is not only saving them money but actually encouraging local suppliers to invest in themselves too.
I accept not all things can be purchased locally but I ask to be given a chance by researching what is available on your doorstep first.
Well done Preston – your approach will gain you support!
As a local business owner with a team who is passionate about what we do, in an field of industry served for over 30 years – I know we can help councils and businesses alike save money.