Recycling businesses have supported a call from the Local Government Association for sweeping changes to the tendering system for council contracts. The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents virtually all councils in England, said this week that simpler rules “regulating how councils buy goods and services after Brexit could boost local growth and create jobs”. he organisation said such a change could give greater access to work opportunities to small and medium-sized businesses. This would involve, said the LGA, government intorducing “a more efficient UK system regulating how councils buy goods and services when we leave the European Union.” The value of local authority work per year, including waste and recycling, is estimated at £55 billion. Local In particular, the local authority organisation said that this could include giving councils greater ability to use local suppliers, specify a minimum local living wage for their suppliers’ employees, or specify additional social value so that companies awarded contracts can be asked to employ or train a number of local people. The LGA explained that the current tendering process, such as for waste and recycling work, means councils have to follow EU-wide advertising and award procedures when they buy goods and services. And, the association remarked: “The process sometimes sits uneasily with supporting the local economy. The EU process can also take between 3 and 18 months – twice as long as typical private sector procurements.” It suggests that the tendering across the EU is not achieving anything, saying: “Almost no public contracts end up being awarded to companies in other EU member states. Only 20 per cent of English councils receive EU expressions of interest from companies based in other EU countries. Across Europe, only 1.6 per cent of public contracts are awarded to companies in other member states.” Lighter-touch The LGA says a “lighter-touch” system which simplifies this processes, and provides more flexibilities to promote local growth, is vital so that councils can procure to shorter timescales and lower high administration costs for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. Cllr Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit Task and Finish Group, said: “The UK’s exit from the EU will have a significant impact on local government, creating challenges that need to be addressed but also opportunities to do things differently. “The way councils spend money has a huge bearing on local growth and job creation. But EU rules over how they buy goods and services can stifle those efforts and take up time and money. “Regulation of public procurement will clearly continue to be necessary when we leave the EU to allow councils to continue to demonstrate best value for money and ensure effective and fair competition. “But introducing more local flexibility and easier procurement rules after Brexit would provide more community benefits and more growth opportunities for SMEs. It would also allow councils to promote local suppliers and local labour and ensure workers earn a decent wage.” Competition Reacting to the LGA announcement, the Recycling Association said that it welcomed the LGA suggestion as the proposed changes could increase competition, and allow smaller businesses to bid for council work. Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin said: “I think that over the years that waste management, recycling and other local services have come to be dominated by the bigger players. We have always advocated more competition for the work and some of our members can’t get on tender lists so they are precluded from start. “There is room too for the bigger companies as ultimately what we are concerned with is that where you increase the competition, you can get a more competitive pricing structure. However, local suppliers know their area well and can pay attention to detail. We would like to see a whole range of companies bidding for work.”
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