Communities and Local Government questions in the House of Commons yesterday included the following exchange:
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I was recently reading ConservativeHome, as one does. I noticed that the Secretary of State uses it to advise councils to make the best use of taxpayers’ money, so what assessment has his Department made of the amount by which council tax payers could benefit from increased local procurement, which could create local jobs and support local businesses?
Robert Neill: I congratulate the hon. Lady on her reading—I was about to say bedtime reading, but I do not know what time she looked at ConservativeHome, although I am sure that the experience was encouraging and enjoyable.
As I have said, we are working on a raft of schemes. We have introduced a new code of recommended practice on data transparency, we are introducing new checks and balances on procurement cards, we are working with the local government sector to encourage initiatives such as the Welland procurement unit in the east midlands, and our Spend Pro analysis can identify areas of comparative spend and areas for efficiencies and savings.
In fact Eric has already written for us about the potential for procurement savings. I have written about how withdrawal from the EU would help – for charities wishing to bid as well as small firms. Mrs Blackman-Woods' colleague Jon Harvey's views have been covered. We have also reported on what a terrible job the DCLG did on its own procurement under the Labour Government.
Has Mrs Blackman-Woods, a former Welfare Rights Officer for Newcastle City Council, been paying attention?
Just before she spoke Bob Neill also said:
The Government have been cutting unnecessary procurement red tape—for example, by removing the pre-qualification questionnaires for procurements below £100,000, as I know those requirements have considerably discouraged small businesses from tendering. I hope that councils will follow that lead and will continue to look to other sizes of contracts to improve procurement.