Sandwell Council wins award for small business friendliness

For the second year running, Sandwell Council has won an award at the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Staffordshire and West Midlands Local Authority ‘Small Business Friendly Awards’.
FSB Awards 2015 - Sandwell Council & John Poole_small
This year we were successful in the ‘Best “Small Business Friendly” Programme or Campaign’ category thanks to our pioneering West Midlands Virtual Hospital and related work in helping our region’s businesses to adopt building information technology (BIM).

The awards ceremony took place at the Eaton Hotel in Edgbaston, Birmingham on Friday 9 October.

The West Midlands Virtual Hospital (WMVH) is a digital-engineered 3D ‘walkthrough’ hospital with a BIM platform. It complements the development of a real-life hospital, the £353m Midland Metropolitan coming to Smethwick.

WMVH coaches SMEs in using BIM. Through it, they can present plans, designs, drawings, dimensional tolerances, product life-­cycle data and specifications using easy­-to­-configure 3D analysis.

WMVH also works as a procurement directory; an online showcase of West Midlands SMEs. Architects, medical engineers, buyers and estate managers can browse WMVH to view prospective suppliers and source materials, products and services.

You can view the WMVH website and sign up for free at

To support small businesses’ adoption of BIM, which will be vital for the future success of most businesses working in the manufacturing and engineering sectors (by 1 April 2016 all public-sector capital-build projects must comply with BIM Level 2), we are hosting BIM awareness workshops. On Thursday 8 October 2015 we launched our state-of-the-art BIM Technology & Skills suite at the CAP Centre on Windmill Lane in Smethwick.

The 12-workstation facility features BIM viewing software, e-­learning platforms, consultancy and affordable vocational training: in basic CAD skills, 3D modelling, engineering design services, product design and BIM object creation. It is a first for a UK local authority.

Karen Woolley, Development Manager for the FSB, said: “This award process was instigated by the Staffordshire & West Midlands region of the FSB to recognise and celebrate the great, and often unsung, work delivered by the fifteen local authorities across the region on behalf of our members and other small businesses.

“Yet again, we were put through our paces this year in judging the entries, such was the outstanding nature of the projects and campaigns put forward!  We are delighted to have awarded Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council our award for ‘Best Small Business Friendly Procurement Policy’ in recognition for the outstanding work they have done to assist small businesses to become bid ready and to compete in what was once an unlevel playing field!

“What has become clear through this awards process year on year is that, even though public-sector budgets are being squeezed and resources are diminishing, the FSB’s engagement with the local authorities across the region continues to go from strength to strength.  The commitment and drive amongst all of our crucial partners to help small businesses to survive and prosper has never been more evident than through this awards process.

“It gave us immense pleasure to recognise the incredible hard work of Sandwell and we can’t wait to see what they submit next year!”

Sandwell Council’s entry was also successful due to our consideration for suppliers. We are a signatory to the Prompt Payment Code, meaning we have pledged to pay suppliers on time, give clear guidance on payment terms and encourage best practice among our lead suppliers (so that a healthy cashflow can trickle down through the supply chain).

Last year we won in the Procurement Policy category and in 2013 took ‘Highly Commended’.

Councillor Bill Gavan, Business Ambassador for Sandwell Council said: “This is a brilliant accolade for Sandwell Council and we’re delighted to have been recognised at the awards once again. Through our business development platform Think Sandwell, the West Midlands Virtual Hospital and our efforts in promoting BIM, we’ll continue doing everything we can to make life easier and the future more prosperous for our region’s businesses.”

To find out more about WMVH or the new BIM suite, email

[Pictured left to right: Councillor Bill Gavan, John Poole of the FSB and Paul Smith from Think Sandwell.]