Council will use online hub to keep money in Torbay

Torbay Weekly

Torbay Council is trialling a hi-tech online supplier hub with the aim of increasing the amount of money it spends with businesses in the Bay.

The council has started a pilot of SupplyDevon, a Government-funded platform in which Torbay businesses can provide quotes to the council on individual orders valued between £5,000 and £50.000.

Torbay businesses get priority, but if no local supplier is available, then Devon businesses will be able to bid.

The goal is to make it easier to for the council to spend money with local businesses, keeping money in Torbay while reducing the environmental impact caused by goods being shipped long distances.

The trial will end on March 31 next year. If successful the council hopes it will be able to use the hub permanently.

In the last financial year, less than ten per cent of the money Torbay Council spent with external businesses - just £5 million - went to those based in Torbay, compared with £48 million spent with suppliers elsewhere.

The hi-tech platform is an attempt to help reverse this situation by using artificial intelligence developed with the help of the University of Exeter to match small local suppliers to large organisations.

Speaking at a recent council meeting, Cllr Darren Cowell, Cabinet member for finance, said: “The objective of this pilot is to keep money in our local economy as opposed to larger companies which may not have Torbay and Devon at their heart.”

Stuart Brocklehurst, CEO of Supply Devon, explained the benefits of the hub.

“Money spent in Devon by big organisations, whether they be public sector or corporates, often tends to boomerang straight back out of Devon again because it gets spent with bigger companies – while the economy of Devon is full of small and medium-sized businesses.

“It’s really easy to go to a really big company for all your needs - it’s much harder to find that smaller business that might actually meet your needs much better than a larger company.”

The SupplyDevon hub launched in February and has already been used by South Devon and Torbay NHS Foundation Trust.

Other local public sector organisations including South Devon College are expected to sign up soon.

Mr Brocklehurst says it’s hard to say how much money will be spent through the hub by Torbay Council until they start using it.

Devon businesses can join the hub for free. More than 5,000 have signed up already.