Deja Vu all over again

In the light of the Welsh Assembly Government's decision to focus on public procurement, someone has asked when was the first time I raised this issue.

I started writing for the Daily Post a fair number of years ago, originally within the business pages but then graduating to the main comments page on a Monday morning.

In March 2004, I wrote that public procurement was one place

“where the Assembly Government can possibly make a real difference to the development of Welsh businesses. The public sector in Wales currently spends approximately £3 billion on services, although very few small firms seem to be able to access this. Certainly if we could improve the process whereby local firms could be supported in accessing public sector contracts, the impact would dwarf the effect of the £60 million in grants awarded by the Assembly Government annually. Before this is dismissed as yet another crackpot idea by an academic, it is worth noting that the US Government has set targets for its public sector bodies which has resulted in federal agencies spending twenty three per cent of their annual budgets with small firms. Given this, it would be a real opportunity for the newest democratic body in Europe - The National Assembly for Wales - to take the lead with its other public sector partners on addressing this issue and develop creative ways of ensuring that Welsh firms can get a larger share of contracts. This would begin to ensure that we move away from the grant culture that has dogged this country for decades whilst, at the same time, giving our indigenous businesses a real opportunity to grow and develop”.

Whilst it has taken four and a half years for the Assembly Government to listen, we can only hope that they take real action to ensure that the public sector does spend more locally, although Saturday’s story that Anglesey Council is sourcing foreign meat shows that there is much that remains to be done.

Ensuring that we support local businesses is not only a responsibility for Government but for each and every one of us.

Going back to another one of my earlier articles for the Daily Post in 2002, I wrote that there is a duty for every one of us to buy as much local goods and services as possible.

“Many of us rarely consider the advantages of dealing with a local business – such as easier access, better service, after sales support – as well as the indirect effect of supporting local jobs and businesses. We tend to think we are saving money without sometimes even considering whether the price may be less when buying out of our own community. Such false economies can seriously damage your local economy whilst not saving you one penny. So think twice before abandoning your local traders – the future of your whole community could depend on it.”

It is clear that we are going into a recession soon and it is important to all pull together. That means that all of us – from the First Minister to your local council official to the man and woman in the street - will need to think very carefully about how we can support home grown businesses through our purchasing power and ensure that we minimise the effects of the economic downturn on our local communities.

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