West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Central Procurement Plans Labelled “Absolute Abomination”

It is an “absolute abomination”, declared Cllr Pam Palmer.

The object of her ire is the innocently named Welsh Procurement Policy, which the Welsh Government has put out for consultation.

Cllr Palmer (Independent, Abergwili, and joint Deputy Leader) told other members of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board, meeting on Monday June 20th, that the policy, focused on a National Procurement Service (NPS), would raise procurement costs and could damage the council’s efforts to increase local employment.

Cllr Dai Jenkins (Plaid Cymru, Glanaman, joint Deputy Leader) was just as incandescent. The new policy could have an adverse impact on Carmarthenshire’s regeneration strategy, he said, stressing that “it will take freedom from local authorities and impose costs.”

The additional expense includes a levy of 0.45% on all spending on contracts awarded under the NPS, which has cost £5.9 million to set up.

The strongly-worded consultation response approved by the Executive Board was particularly damning about the prospect of central contracts which local authorities and public bodies would be obliged to accept.

“This proposal represents a major threat to our local economy in South West Wales and how we currently link up with SMEs (small and medium enterprises) who are often very well placed to provide a quality service at a competitive price in a highly sustainable way and often with opportunities to deliver genuine valued community benefits,” said the response document.

In contrast, centrally negotiated contracts could be more expensive. “There is evidence that framework prices in relation to consultancy under NPS are significantly more expensive than our existing contracts,” the response says. “A requirement to use NPS contracts is unacceptable and takes away the democratic role of unitary authorities and elected county councillors. Also the imposition of an additional 0.45% levy just adds to the unfairness in mandating that NPS contracts would have to be utilised.”

The Welsh Government’s big idea for central procurement is intended to increase fairness and transparency, and minimise the scope for local collusion between purchasers and sellers, but if the policy is brought in without major amendments, small businesses would be disadvantaged. In addition, public bodies would lose autonomy over which suppliers to select, while paying for the dubious privilege through the levy.

And any policy which privileges corporations large enough to take on central contracts is likely to damage small enterprises which may be very important in, and to, their own communities.



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