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Ethnic owned Business loses out on London Olympics 2012 contracts

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by Clare Eluka
Anger swells in the capital, as black-owned and small businesses have seemingly drawn the short straw for London Olympics contracts.

Official figures show that these companies have been awarded fewer than seven per cent of contracts. Yet Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people make up more than 40 percent of the population of the Olympic boroughs.
Craig Cordice, founder of Engage Enterprise which is based in Docklands close to the Olympic hub and represents 4,500 businesses, said: “The 2012 London Olympic Games was won on a commitment to diversity and equal opportunities and that’s what we want to see delivered.”

Cordice began researching and monitoring the 2012 games back in 2006 when it was first announced, and now 6 months before is starts, it seems his fears have been realised.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has got £6bn worth of contracts. For the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) the figure is £700m. But only 6.3 percent of BAME businesses have been successful, according to data from CompeteFor, the official online brokerage service.
The London Development Agency (LDA) developed CompeteFor to open up the 2012 supply chain to competition from smaller companies.

Process
Cordice pointed to problems with the CompeteFor bidding process faced by BAME businesses that he had “addressed over the last six years”. Small and micro businesses – those with one to 10 employees and an annual turnover of less than £500,000, the categories into which most BAME firms came under – “fell through the safety net”. So contracts ended up being awarded to “the usual suspects that have a big turnover”.

John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said many of his members thought the Games “will not benefit” them.

Tom Brake MP, a senior Lib Dem MP who is co-chair of the party’s Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities backbench committee, has raised the issue with Paul Deighton, Chief Executive of LOCOG. In a letter to Cordice, Brake wrote: “Our primary aim now must be to ensure that the bidding process is promoted and explained to BAME communities to ensure they are given an equal and fair opportunity to apply.”

Engage Enterprise and The-Latest.com, the UK’s first citizen journalism website, have launched a broad based campaign in a last ditch attempt to tackle the problem. They are calling for members of the public to support their online petition, to be handed to Olympics chiefs, at www.engage-enterprise.com/burning-injustice.html

Demands
Marc Wadsworth, founder of The-Latest.com and a campaigner for race equality, said: “We are making specific demands to the government to end social and economic injustice as a top priority and the awarding of Olympic contracts is a good test of its commitment.”

Campaigners say they want at least 35 per cent of the remaining contracts for BAME micro, small and medium enterprises. “Jobs for our youth and economic rejuvenation for our damaged inner cities can result from such positive action,” said Wadsworth.

LOCOG chief Deighton, in his letter of reply to Brake, said: “We have broken new ground in diversity and inclusion to help BAME and other businesses to win work from the Games, and positively to influence all suppliers’ approach to diversity and inclusion.”

CE: What happens now, what can be done about the lack of BAME businesses winning contracts?
CC: All Black and micro businesses should join the petition on Engage-enterprise.com to show the strength in numbers. We can then present a stronger case to the officials and force them to listen.

CE: Why do you think BAME businesses are not getting their fair share on the pie?
CC: BAME businesses are often ignored because they can not be easily found (lack of web presence or advertising), because of racial stigma and to be honest, because it is a game of not what you know, but who you know.  It seems as though black businesses are only accepted for tier 5-7 low level contracts that is demeaning. We have 4,500 businesses on our database who are ready to take on big contracts and are dying for the chance to contribute to a worldwide event which is taking place on their own doorstep.
 

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