A family-run farm business established in 2000 to sell organic milk directly to the consumer has welcomed new Government reforms designed to benefit small and medium-sized businesses.
In 2004, the Darlington-based Acorn Dairy won a contract to supply Darlington Borough Council with milk for local schools, nursing homes and leisure facilities and has retained this ever since, repeatedly winning the tender over larger, non-organic dairies.
Using the local authority business as a backbone, the firm gained the confidence to expand its wholesale business wider throughout the North, supplying nursery milk to Newcastle City Council, as well as dairy products to Waitrose and Morrisons supermarkets.
Now Acorn Dairy, which employs 34 people, is planning to take advantage of a new Contracts Finder web portal designed to make it easier and quicker for companies to find and bid for public sector contracts in their area of expertise, locality and price range.
The free-to-use service provides a single online marketplace for SMEs to win public sector work and pipelines worth up to £10,000 for central Government and £25,000 for the wider public sector.
The new system is designed to increase transparency and accountability in the way Government buys services, providing better value for money for the taxpayer.
Updated legislation will also mean the bid criteria for public sector contracts will be simplified, enabling more competition in the marketplace.
Large contracts will be broken down into smaller lots, making it easier for SMEs to access them, while complicated forms such as Pre-Qualification Questionnaires have been removed for low value work.
Last year, SMEs won central Government contracts worth £11.4bn and the Government’s intention is to grow this figure further in 2015.
Due to new payment regulation, public sector suppliers and their sub-contractors will be paid within 30 days, and public bodies will be rendered more accountable through an annual late payment report.
Caroline Bell, operations director of Acorn Dairy said: “It has given us great kudos to supply a local council. Once you’ve won one public sector contract, it is easier to win others as it shows a level of competence, even for a new company, which we were at the time.
“The Contracts Finder portal makes it easier for a company such as ours to secure further suitable contracts. All the contract information and tender requirements are clearly displayed. The application process has been simplified, which saves us time and money.”