Like Castle Point, Brentwood Council was praised by David Cameron for paying their bills early. Here Brentwood Council leader Cllr Brandon Lewis says they are also using local small firms as suppliers where possible.

When it started to become clear
that local authorities had invested money with Icelandic banks, we felt
that we should make an announcement to our Full Council meeting that
night, to make clear that none of our money was involved.

In discussing this we also
began to appreciate that local small businesses would be struggling
in the current climate. Many of our administration run and work in small
to medium sized businesses and we appreciated how cash flow can be an
issue while other companies are trying to protect their own by not paying

As the local authority we are
there to help our residents and provide them with good services. We
also believe that involves ensuring the infrastructure is in place to
have a flourishing community. To do that we need employment and local
business to thrive. This will not happen in the current climate if we
do not play our part in ensuring the survival of these businesses. In
an area such as Brentwood, we have a large number of retail and service
industry companies, who will survive only if they have an offer to appeal
to residents and if they can keep a healthy cash flow.

We play our part by using local
business for a range of services and have now said that we will do all
we can to us local suppliers at this time, wherever we can. We already
use a range of local suppliers for everything form ICT to building works
and legal services, with a wide range of products and services in between

In a Borough such as Brentwood
so many residents work outside of the area, in London, that our local
business is vital and is often owned and run by residents. Therefore,
it seems logical that we have a duty to help them and through doing
that we help our residents. At a time when cash flow is as vital as
a healthy balance sheet, it seemed that the least we could do was help
that cash flow, after all we have to pay for he goods we use. So now
we do our bit by paying just that little bit earlier.

With no major industry in our
town it is important that to help keep employment levels healthy locally
we do what we can to ensure the businesses that offer these jobs are
able to survive and indeed flourish. We spend a lot of time ensuring
our officers get best value on orders, but do we ever consider what
best value means? Does it mean the cheapest price (and how many of us
really believe that local authority tendering processes get us the best
price?) or should we, in the current climate, but look at best value
in terms of what it means to our community?

If we do not look after our
communities they will struggle and they will flounder. It seems logical
that our role as a local authority is to develop and protect tour community
and its residents. With that in mind, placing as much of our business
as we can locally means that we do, in the short term at least, play
our part in helping to keep these local businesses running so that they
are then ready to move forward without us as and when times improve.

If we cannot do our best to
support our residents and the communities we represent, then what are
we here for?