23 August 2007 | Paul Snell
Swindon Borough Council's decision to charge suppliers for information necessary to tender for work has been described as a "slippery slope".
Vendors have criticised the council for imposing a £50 charge on those interested in supplying marketing service for its Wichelstowe development project. Potential suppliers to the project, which will create a community of homes, shops and businesses, were asked to pay to receive details about pre-qualification.
Bill Jenkins, chief executive of Quadrant Media and Communications, told SM: "In 20 years of running a consultancy this is the first time I have come across this. I have never been asked to pay. It is a slippery slope and I don't think it's acceptable. It shouldn't be looking to add to costs, because tendering costs can be quite considerable."
John Taynton, managing director of PR Dogs, was also interested in tendering, but baulked when he saw the fee. "Our eyes popped out of our head when we saw the £50 charge. I could understand if it was a big packet of stuff, but it isn't."
The council said it made the charge because of the "complexity and quantity of documents that have to be issued to all interested parties, the costs associated with their preparation and the need to ensure that only serious expressions of interest are received".
Brian Rees, director of procurement, said such charges were not a general rule, and it wasn't planning to make them so.
Francis Ingham, assistant director general of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, said charging was likely to weaken competition. He added buyers should consider "offering a payment for part or all of the administrative costs of preparing a pitch" due to the high costs involved.