A COUNCIL which buys more than £100m of goods, works and services annually from its top 300 suppliers has agreed to use its buying power to help boost residents’ pay packets.

Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet heard the Local Wealth Building programme aimed to increase spend in the local area by incentivising firms tendering for council contracts to deliver additional benefits for the residents and businesses of Darlington.

These intended benefits range from the employment of local people, apprentices and care leavers to having a positive impact on local environmental issues.

A report to the Cabinet meeting stated how Preston had experienced a marked improvement in a range of wellbeing outcome indicators in the eight years since it adopted local wealth building. The report stated: “An additional £539m spent within the Preston and Lancashire area, helping support local businesses and jobs, by local anchor institutions over just three years is considered to be a key reason as why there has been such significant improvements in wellbeing measures such as the average wages of part-time workers.”

Labour group leader Stephen Harker welcomed the initiative, but questioned whether it would be easy to implement as the authority also had to put significant weight on value for money when considering who to award a contract to.

Green Party group leader Councillor Matthew Snedker added if the scheme was run well it could bring great benefits for the town, particularly by increasing the number of workers receiving the Real Living Wage.

He said: “Having seen other towns around the country which champion the Real Living Wage amongst local businesses they see decreased sick time, increased productivity, improved retainment and in their ability to attract the best employees possible, both in the town and outside.”

The authority’s efficiency and resources boss Councillor Charles Johnson said he welcomed the cross-party support for the project and its success would be driven by the council.

He said: “Besides complying with the Public Services Act the programme is assisting in realising our core provision for Darlington.”