THE need for Huntingdonshire suppliers to win contracts with their district council and other public bodies in the area is set to be a major theme of a key meeting early next year. Business leaders have for years been pressing HDC to favour local companies over suppliers from elsewhere when it procures goods and services. And, at the first of the district council's 2009 business breakfasts, probably in late January, HDC is expected to spell out how suppliers can be more successful in winning council contracts. In common with all public sector organisations, HDC has a duty to provide best possible value to its paymasters, particularly Council Tax payers, and cannot discriminate in favour of local suppliers. But senior officials are thought to believe it would be consistent with its new environmental strategy to make that discrimination when bids from a local supplier and a remote one are broadly similar financially - because of lower pollution levels generated by local delivery of goods and labour. In the meantime, more than 70 Huntingdonshire companies were attracted to a district council "buyer-meets-supplier" event at which they had one-to-one meetings with public sector and quasi-public sector organisations. Most sectors of the business community, covering both service and manufacturing organisations, were represented. They were also treated to a 'master class' on how to win public sector contracts' which offered practical advice, support and useful tips from an industry expert, the council said. The event was part of the drive by HDC's economic development department to encourage local procurement and ensure Huntingdonshire businesses are made aware of the opportunities available within the public sector. Council procurement manger Nigel Arkle said: "Within the district we are keen to ensure we offer small and medium enterprises the best possible opportunity to compete for work. It is events such as these and practical advice and information provided on our website that demonstrate our commitment to this process." Sharon Grant, social landlord Luminus Group's procurement manger, added: "Not only was I made aware of a range of new local organisations spanning a range of sectors, but four or five were of immediate interest and will be encouraged to contact us when appropriate contracts are put out to tender.