Damning research “flawed”, says council

Coun Leigh Bramall
Coun Leigh Bramall

Council leaders in Sheffield are refuting “flawed” research which claimed the city had one of the lowest spends with small businesses of any local authority in the UK.

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development, insists the authority has a ‘buy local’ policy which means about 70 per cent of spend with local businesses – one of the highest levels in the country.

According to Spend Small: The Local Authority Spend Index, over the last three years Sheffield City Council spent just 4.3 per cent of its procurement budget with small firms – just £55 million of a £1.276 billion budget.

But Coun Bramall said the research did not take into account spending with contractors like Amey and Kier, who are “strongly advised” to spend with local firms when entering into contracts.

He said: “This flawed research did not take any of that into account. It did not consider the full supply chain, but instead just looked at the issue simplistically. Last year, we won an award for being the Best Council to do Business With from the Government Department of Communities and Local Government – for the kind of work we’ve done with Amey to open up to smaller local businesses.”

Barnsley Council, which came bottom in the survey with four per cent of spend, also refutes the figures, claiming it spends about half its budget with SMEs.

Coun Bramall also responded to figures which showed Sheffield suffered a fall in the total number of businesses in the city, placing it 127th out of 150 UK town and cities for growth.

The latest figures show 1,605 companies were created in 2012 but 1,800 closed – giving a net loss of 195 firms.

It means 3.5 businesses were lost per 10,000 people in the city, compared to a national average of 0.8 created.

Top of the table was London with 16.1 businesses created per 10,000 head of population.

John Wingfield, partner at UHY Hacker Young Sheffield, which produced the figures, said slow business generation was due to the recession still taking its toll.

“A weak local economy and under investment have taken their toll.”

Coun Bramall said the council had prioritised apprenticeships.

He added: “This report backs up something we have been saying for a long time, that growth in the UK is overly concentrated in London and the South East of England.

“We have prioritised investment in apprenticeships and skills to give businesses and young people opportunities they need.”