DORSET County Council is thinking small when it comes to selecting businesses to work with, a new report reveals.

The council says it's pleased after findings published today name it in the Top 10 for spending with small businesses.

The Local Authority Spend Index reveals that over the last three years, Dorset County Council spent 21 per cent of its procurement budget with small firms.

It spent almost £72,000 of its £355,000 budget with small firms over that time, coming in at number seven in the poll.

It compares sharply with the worst performing authority - Barnsley Metropolitan Council - which spent just four per cent of its budget with small firms over the same period.

Cllr Peter Finney, cabinet member for environment and the economy, said: “It's fantastic news.

“We want to encourage smaller businesses to get on the map.”

He said smaller businesses should not be discouraged from reaching out for council contracts.

“We will always do what we can to help them. We have got a really good team that give guidance and help as much as possible.”

The Centre for Entrepreneurs says that although spending with small businesses does not automatically equate improved economy, small firms 'are a key source for job creation and economic growth.'

Dorset is also flagged up as a positive example for how just because an authority is small, it doesn't mean it can't spend with small businesses.

Although Sheffield City Council outspends Dorset by more than three times, its spend with small businesses is £5m less than Dorset a year.

The Centre for Entrepreneurs is calling on more councils to follow Dorset's lead.

According to the report, just 20 large companies earned an astonishing £9.9bn from English and Welsh councils in three years, while 78,128 small firms shared an £11.1bn pot over the same period.

Chairman Luke Johnson said: “One of the best ways that government can support small businesses is buying from them. Sadly, many entrepreneurs struggle to win business from government, finding the process to be complex, bureaucratic and tilted in favour of large incumbents.

“Although central government has an explicit strategy to do more business with small firms, the same cannot be said for local authorities, so performance varies widely. Given the opportunity, small, entrepreneurial firms are proving they can cut costs and drive innovation in the public sector, while boosting their local economies.

“The Index aims to highlight the best performing councils, encourage those further down the rankings to evaluate their performance, and overall make it easier for entrepreneurs to win business.

“It's time for all areas of government to spend small.”