Small businesses could soon find it easier to bid for contracts to supply food to Lancashire County Council and its schools.
The authority’s cabinet voted to approve a new strategy which will mean suppliers of certain products are responsible only for providing their produce - but not distributing it to council facilities across the county.
Council leader Geoff Driver told members that the approach would be of “significant benefit” to small and medium-sized firms, which sometimes found the requirement to deliver goods over a wide area a “prohibitive factor”.
The contracts are due to come into operation in 2020 and will be divided into lots for the supply of frozen food, groceries, flour and rice and confectionary and soft drinks. They will be advertised at a later date.
All of county hall’s food and drink purchases will be distributed by a single firm - which will also supply all of the authority’s fresh fruit and vegetables. That overarching contract is due to be advertised shortly and will begin next May.
As part of the same exercise, supply-only bids will be invited to provide produce including milk, cooked meat, cheese, eggs and sandwich fillings. A similar arrangement has been in operation for these products for the last three years.
A report presented to cabinet said that the option of offering multiple contracts for distribution had been dismissed, because of the “requirement for consistency of service across the school and college network”.
Bidders will have to demonstrate their “social value” - including how they will promote healthy eating in schools, training and employment opportunities for the people of Lancashire and environmental sustainability.
Firms will be assessed on quality criteria - including customer service and product recall procedures - and financial value.
Members were told that the proposed food distribution network would reduce the number of individual deliveries to council buildings from different suppliers and drive down their associated carbon emissions.
More than 550 establishments receive food under the contracts and the new arrangement will “reduce 'barriers to entry' for small providers, as they will only be required to deliver once or twice a week into a single distribution hub,” the report added.