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Backing business in Brentwood

Brandonlewis Like Castle Point, Brentwood Council was praised by David Cameron for paying their bills early. Here Brentwood Council leader Cllr Brandon Lewis says they are also using local small firms as suppliers where possible.

When it started to become clear that local authorities had invested money with Icelandic banks, we felt that we should make an announcement to our Full Council meeting that night, to make clear that none of our money was involved.

In discussing this we also began to appreciate that local small businesses would be struggling in the current climate. Many of our administration run and work in small to medium sized businesses and we appreciated how cash flow can be an issue while other companies are trying to protect their own by not paying promptly.

As the local authority we are there to help our residents and provide them with good services. We also believe that involves ensuring the infrastructure is in place to have a flourishing community. To do that we need employment and local business to thrive. This will not happen in the current climate if we do not play our part in ensuring the survival of these businesses. In an area such as Brentwood, we have a large number of retail and service industry companies, who will survive only if they have an offer to appeal to residents and if they can keep a healthy cash flow.

We play our part by using local business for a range of services and have now said that we will do all we can to us local suppliers at this time, wherever we can. We already use a range of local suppliers for everything form ICT to building works and legal services, with a wide range of products and services in between these.

In a Borough such as Brentwood so many residents work outside of the area, in London, that our local business is vital and is often owned and run by residents. Therefore, it seems logical that we have a duty to help them and through doing that we help our residents. At a time when cash flow is as vital as a healthy balance sheet, it seemed that the least we could do was help that cash flow, after all we have to pay for he goods we use. So now we do our bit by paying just that little bit earlier.

With no major industry in our town it is important that to help keep employment levels healthy locally we do what we can to ensure the businesses that offer these jobs are able to survive and indeed flourish. We spend a lot of time ensuring our officers get best value on orders, but do we ever consider what best value means? Does it mean the cheapest price (and how many of us really believe that local authority tendering processes get us the best price?) or should we, in the current climate, but look at best value in terms of what it means to our community?

If we do not look after our communities they will struggle and they will flounder. It seems logical that our role as a local authority is to develop and protect tour community and its residents. With that in mind, placing as much of our business as we can locally means that we do, in the short term at least, play our part in helping to keep these local businesses running so that they are then ready to move forward without us as and when times improve.

If we cannot do our best to support our residents and the communities we represent, then what are we here for?


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