COOKSTOWN District Council has beat off stiff competition to scoop at top accolade at the NI Local Government Association Gala Awards.
Beating off Belfast and Craigavon Council, Cookstown collected the award for the design and delivery of its highly innovative Multi-Sectoral Tendering Programme.
The annual Local Government Awards celebrate the best examples of public service provision and showcase excellence in frontline local government public services across NI’s 26 Councils. Cookstown Council’s Tendering Programme had been nominated under the category “Best European Funded Project” which was sponsored by the Northern Ireland Local Government Association and presented by BBC’s Tara Mills and Alderman Arnold Hatch, NILGA.
The “Best European-Funded Project” award is for the design, management and implementation of an EU project which has developed the local economy through infrastructure or business development with a particular focus on the tangible impact and outcomes it had at a local level, and how it can be considered as an example of best practice by other regions.
Cookstown’s Multi-Sectoral Tendering Programme not only met, but surpassed, these criteria. Commencing in 2010 this initiative was designed to assist up to 80 businesses from the Cookstown District in the construction, engineering, manufacturing and business services sectors to source and identify ‘live’ tender opportunities and provide hands on support to assist businesses submit tender bids.
With only half of the Programme delivered to the first 40 participating businesses, it has already exceed its ambitious targets providing a 48 fold return on investment through the £5.360m of new contracts won, in addition to creating 25 new jobs and helping businesses achieve a number of other key objectives.
Council Chairman Sean Clarke, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for Council and we are especially delighted as this particular category was only introduced this year and we are the first Council to win this award. We in Cookstown are extremely proud of the achievements of our Multi-Sectoral Tendering Programme, and I offer my congratulations to Council’s Local Economic Development Team and the consultants, GEL Ltd, who have worked so hard to deliver this successful programme.
“In these difficult trading times Council believes it is essential that our SMEs receive targeted support from local government to develop their capacity. This flagship Programme has been critical in providing a much needed economic stimulus to our local business community. It has also strengthened our relationship with our local businesses and raised the profile of Council as one of the District’s key business support agencies. As such it has undoubtedly become a key driver for economic growth in the area, contributing to the future sustainability and prosperity of not only the Cookstown District, but also Northern Ireland as a whole.”
The Tendering Programme is jointly funded by Cookstown District Council and the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for NI 2007-13. It was launched in the Burnavon Centre in June 2010 by the First Minister, Rt. Hon. Peter Robinson MLA.
Mr Robinson said: “Cookstown District Council has recognised the importance of stimulating the private sector at grassroots level by putting the development of local business at the heart of this programme. Its very practical nature will certainly address the barriers faced by businesses interested in bidding for contracts.”
As well as helping to create and sustain jobs, the programme incorporates a number of other key objectives for businesses including increasing profitability, achieving efficiencies, supporting businesses to become Invest NI clients and also promoting the development of business collaborations in submitting tender proposals to help companies get involved in supply chains both locally and regionally.
To objectively verify the outcomes, Council appointed an independent organisation, NORIBIC Ltd, to carry out Interim and Final Evaluations of the Programme. Niall O’Somachain (Senior Consultant), completing the Interim Evaluation, said: “NORIBIC have been very impressed by the high standards of programme management, delivery and co-ordination; even at this early stage, the Programme is proving to be a leader in its class.” Adrian McCreesh, Chief Executive (Acting) said: “This programme was designed to provide a package of direct and practical support to help local businesses identify build their capacity to prepare high quality tender bids and access opportunities for new work.
“We in Cookstown Council are committed to continually striving for excellence in supporting our business community, and helping them prepare for the future economic recovery by ensuring they are best placed competitively to benefit from any new procurement opportunities. To build on the success of this Programme, we are currently working with a number of agencies to design a new suite of business development programmes which will further support the sustainability, growth and competitiveness of our local business.”