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Councils call for ‘lighter touch’ to public procurement after Brexit

Councils have called for a more efficient “lighter touch” system for procurement after the UK leaves the European Union.

In a statement, the LGA said that this could include giving local authorities greater power to use local suppliers, as well as specify a minimum local living wage for their supplier employees.

At the moment, councils have to follow EU-wide advertising and award procedures when they buy goods and services, which can often take between three and 18 months, which is twice as long as typical private sector procurements.

This is despite the fact that almost no public contracts are let to companies in other EU member states, as only 20% of councils in England even receive an expression of interest from companies based in other EU countries.

The LGA argued that a lighter touch system would simplify the process and provide more flexibilities to promote local growth, allowing councils to procure to shorter timescales and lower administration costs for businesses, especially SMEs.

“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,” said Cllr Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit Task and Finish Group.

“The way councils spend money has a huge bearing on local growth and job creation,” he added. But EU rules over how they buy goods and services can stifle those efforts and take up time and money.”

Cllr Bentley also explained that regulation of public procurement will clearly continue to be necessary when the UK leaves 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,” he continued.

“It would also allow councils to promote local suppliers and local labour and ensure workers earn a decent wage.”

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Digby Barker   21/08/2017 at 10:59

Cllr Bentley puts his finger on the main reason for any differences (on a comparable basis !) between Public & Private sector procurement by referring to the role regulation plays given the need for councils to continue to demonstrate best value for money post Brexit. From a suppliers viewpoint the key issues must be the continued observance of the principles of Transparency, Equality of Treatment, Non-discrimination and Proportionality. However, using procurement to promote local growth needs to be done carefully if the competitiveness of local companies in the wider economy is not to be prejudiced and we are not to see an outbreak of protectionism within the UK.

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