Now we've all heard the phrase 'Buy Local' and for the majority of us in our individual lives we can action this on a daily basis, but what about larger companies and specifically Local Authorities? To find out more about how B&NES in particular interacts with local businesses mainly those in the tech and creative industries we invited the team from NEPRO along to Cake Wednesday.
If you have never before heard of NEPRO you aren't alone, in fact very few of our members had heard of them, and thus was the need for the Council to open their eyes about the bounty of Council contracts that are seemingly barred behind a brick wall of strict business guidelines and compliances.
If you are still asking yourself "What the hell is NEPRO?!" we shall explain...
NEPRO describe themselves as 'The Neutral Vendor Solution for Professional Services'; what this means is that they act as the link between both SMEs and larger entities throughout the country, allowing public sector organisations to search their database of skills so they can make more informed decisions and keep the transparency that is integral to their key operations.
NEPRO is a private entity that allow businesses to engage with the public sector and ease the public procurement process. They suggest that with their service the public sector can 'mitigate risk, drive savings and increase the use of local SMEs'. In practice this all sounds really good! A better utilisation of local skills, combined with the necessary transparency required for public service procurement.
The Council's aim in bringing NEPRO to the attention of our members was to get as much local business on to the system, so they can begin to procure contracts with preference to local business 'Buy Local' as it were. Here at The Guild there is a wealth of skills and knowledge, yet there seems to be a real gulf between the two in regards to their knowledge of the opportunities available on both sides.
During the talk a number of members voiced concerns over the strict and stringent nature of public service contracts, asking what baseline requirements are needed to become a viable candidate, which Steve & Richard (NEPRO reps) were quick to try and work past. We got the feeling that the public sector (B&NES in particular) are keen to dispel the previous notion that it is simply not possible to obtain a public contract unless you have complied with numerous hoop jumping activities. This continued to be the theme of the talk as both Steve and Richard explained that the Council are determined to open up channels of communication in order to create a dialogue.
Despite some initial scepticism, the case for NEPRO making a difference in bridging the gap between SMEs and local public services was well made, in fact a number of Guild members have already submitted applications to join.
We would like to thank Richard & Steve for coming along and explaining NEPRO to us as well as making the case of why our members need to engage with them. We're sure plenty of opportunities will arise as a result!