The northern English town of Preston has “taken back control” of its procurement strategy and handed over 100% of contracts to local businesses. Could this be a model for other cities across Europe?
Named the most improved city and top of the Good Growth for Cities index, Preston shows that, despite Brexit, it is able to achieve what local authorities elsewhere in the EU can achieve. Adopting what it calls guerrilla localism, it aims to keep money as close to home as possible and, despite historically drastic cuts, the amount spent locally has gone up. Where other authorities privatise, Preston grows its own businesses, including co-operatives owned by the workers themselves.
In 2015, Lancashire County Council put a out a call for proposals for a contract to provide healthy school meals, preferably organic. Because it was too large for local firms, the contract was divided into bite-size chunks. For example, there was a tender to provide yoghurt, others for sandwich fillings, eggs, cheese, milk, and so on. One contract was split into nine different parts. It meant council officers structuring the market to fit society – and it worked. Every contract was won by local suppliers using Lancashire farmers, providing a £2m (€2.3m) boost to local enterprises.
Preston prioritises local companies with stronger social and environmental policies. It develops local ownership and local supply chains and works with key public, commercial and social anchor institutions to facilitate this.
It has 7 ‘anchor’ organisations, which each try to practically promote rewarding local people. There is a mixture of councils, companies, co-operatives and mutuals working together alongside the public institutions that is creating a new way to do business.
For more information about the Preston Model, visit the website of Preston City Council for its Definitive Guide to the Preston model.
Question for comments: Is “geuerilla localism” the future of procurement in cities and municipalities in Europe?