Norfolk County Council to tweet its contract opportunities as part of red tape shake-up

Norfolk firms are to get details of county council contract opportunities via the Twitter social media site as part of series of measures aimed at making it easier for local businesses to bid for County Hall work.

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy yesterday rolled out a series of pledges aimed at cutting red tape including scrapping the two-stage 'pre-qualification' questionnaire process for tenders valued at under �100,000 unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Speaking at the start of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce's Opportunities 2012 event, Mr Murphy said the council will also give advanced warning of significant contracts to help businesses start to plan for the procurement exercise while a suppliers' day will also be held aimed at providing better value for money and tapping into innovative ideas while giving potential suppliers the chance to shape the process.

And he called on all councils and other public bodies to follow the lead of the authority and West Norfolk and Norwich City Council and use the government's standardised 'Contracts Finder' website to eliminate unnecessary red tape.

He said the council will also publish a register of grants and contracts and for significant procurement processes starting after April 1 it will publish the tender documents and a copy of the contract awarded.

'A vibrant local economy is pivotal to what we want to achieve,' Mr Murphy said. 'Public procurement is key to what we do. Norfolk public procurement represents �1bn of business, and about 40pc of the county council's expenditure is with SMEs.

'We have already simplified our procurement processes to make it easier to do business with us. We have thrown away many of the long-winded questionnaires that used to be sent out and we are increasingly making use of electronic quotations, so that we can reach more suppliers. But we want to go further.

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'We will start tweeting local opportunities,' he added. 'Entrepreneurial local businesses have told us that Twitter is a key way for them to network, and it's very easy for them to re-tweet contracts that might be of interest to others.

'Anything that we can do to help local companies to be aware of and apply for our contracts can only help them in the current economic climate.'

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber said: 'The government has identified that they want to cut red tape and it's good to see local authorities taking the initiative and going even further than the government in order to make it easier for small businesses to take advantage of the quite large budgets local authorities still have.

'Many small businesses are very nervous to deal with public sector because of the restrictions and regulations involved, so we would say give it a try. If you have tried before and found it a problem, it's a good time to give it another go.

'We are seeing new businesses that we don't often see coming to the event, which is really good. It's opening them up to the buyers and suppliers.

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