Businesses in the Borders are given every chance to tender for council contracts, according to the local authority this week.
Scottish Borders Council (SBC) was responding after a report just released showed that Scottish councils are less likely to spend their money locally compared to those elsewhere in the UK.
The study was carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses and revealed that local authorities in Scotland spend around 31 per cent of their procurement budgets in their local area compared to 50 per cent in Northern Ireland and 40 per cent in Wales.
And Conservative MSP John Lamont has urged the SNP-led SBC to help to reverse this trend by spending more of its money locally.
“Many people will be surprised that we are lagging so far behind the rest of the UK when it comes to local authorities spending money in their own areas,” Mr Lamont said.
“For our councils to be nearly 20 per cent behind those in Northern Ireland is bizarre and there clearly needs to be a change in the way the councils spend taxpayers’ money.
“The least we expect from our councils is for them to spend the money we give them in taxes in our local area. That is why I am calling for SBC to see that more of the money raised in the Borders stays in the Borders.
“Right now, our local economy needs investment and if we cannot rely on our own council to provide this then it will be hard to gain funding from elsewhere.
“We need to give our economy a boost during these tough economic times and by choosing local Borders businesses more regularly, the council can help provide this.”
And Mr Lamont added: “The council obviously needs to strike a balance when it comes to price quality and the impact on the local economy.
“However, it would seem clear from these figures that the balance is not right and more local businesses need to be given investment.”
But Councillor Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East, SNP), SBC’s executive member for economic development said the local authority had prioritised reforming procurement to ensure local suppliers are given every opportunity to bid for council-tendered activity.
“For more than two years, the council has been participating in the national supplier development programme that aims to increase the capacity of local businesses to compete for all public sector contracts,” he told TheSouthern.
“Total procurement spend by the council in 2010/11 was £129million, and £40million of this was provided by companies based in the Borders.
“To maximise these and wider opportunities, for example from the Borders Railway and the 2014 Commonwealth Games, our economic development, business gateway and procurement teams will continue to work with local businesses to ensure they are equipped to compete for this type of business.
“Ultimately, we want to increase where we can the proportion and value of contracts won locally by suppliers within the Borders, while at the same time ensuring that at all times the council complies with public sector procurement regulations and obtains value for money.”
And Mr Bell said the council welcomed the report by the Federation of Small Businesses.
“SBC is transparent about its local procurement and is already engaging in many of the initiatives recommended by the FSB,” said Mr Bell.
“We will continue to take initiatives to improve local procurement as specific initiatives are more important than simple regional comparisons.”