By Daniel Hunter

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are missing out on a wealth of public sector contract opportunities and are being urged to revise their outdated view of a system they see as overly complicated.

Despite local government spend topping £227bn, the lion's share of SMEs still avoid taking advantage of this opportunity. A lack of technical know-how, fears over red tape and feeling powerless to compete with larger organisations are the primary reasons cited, according to Graham Longley, Executive Councillor and Deputy Leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

At a time when Westminster is placing a strong emphasis on exporting, SMEs are now also advised to look closer to home in search of growth opportunities. A local government contract not only offers a steady revenue stream, it signals the high quality of a business, making it an invaluable new business tool.

Aiming to make winning contracts more accessible than ever, Business Southend has launched a Local Procurement Portal aimed at businesses of any size. A key feature for small businesses is the innovative ability to form consortiums with, so even embryonic sole traders can begin winning lucrative contracts.

The launch of the portal is an important step towards dispelling the myths that public sector contracts are only for larger companies and that they necessarily involve a great deal of effort to achieve. A free Put The Pro in Procurement guide is also available for download and contains invaluable advice to businesses looking to do business with the public sector.

Graham Longley, Executive Councillor and Deputy Leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council said: "We see first-hand how gaining public sector contracts can boost any business, from multi-nationals, to kitchen table start-ups. At Southend-on-Sea Borough Council we are working extremely hard to dispel some of the unhelpful procurement myths which still linger. From where we stand, local government contracts have never been easier to attain and there is a tremendous amount of support available to those who seek it, with the Business Southend Procurement Portal a prime example."

Alan Davies at said: “We’re a local firm based in Essex. In the past we’ve taken on a lot of smaller contracts which have been great for getting us known and building a loyal group of customers. Going for the opportunity at Southend Borough Council meant that we had to improve our policies and change our internal systems. The result of winning the contract has meant that we’ve practically doubled our staff numbers and significantly grown our turnover. Now that we have the Southend contract we’re looking for other opportunities to continue growing our business.”

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