18 October 2007 | Antony Barton
A judge has thrown out an attempt by a clothing supplier to stop Firebuy doing a deal with another vendor.
Lion Apparel Systems called for an injunction to prevent the fire and rescue services' purchasing arm from signing a personal protective equipment (PPE) contract with Bristol Uniforms. It made the request after failing to be named preferred bidder for the Integrated Clothing Project (ICP) - the first national procurement project for fire and rescue wear.
Lion currently provides clothing to 35 per cent of UK fire services. It made the challenge on the grounds that Firebuy had committed 13 breaches in the procurement process. Some centred on whether Bristol had met criteria outlined in the tender and whether it qualified to bid.
Firebuy, created in 2005, took over the ICP procurement from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. Four suppliers provided PPE for trials. Following recommendations from the Chief Fire Officers' Association ICP board, Firebuy awarded preferred bidder status to Bristol in March and hoped to sign the contract later this year.
After a six-day hearing last month, the judge found no case for 10 of the 13 alleged breaches. Of the remaining three, the judge was undecided on two, but said they were of marginal importance. He said the third, concerning scoring methodology, was a "weak ground of challenge". He added: "In my judgement, that weak case should not be regarded as sufficient to interrupt this procurement process."
Terry Brewer, Firebuy CEO, said it will now ?nalise the contract with Bristol. He added the judgement was good news for those fire and rescue authorities with urgent need for PPE as their existing contracts near expiry.
In a statement, Lion said it was disappointed the court declined to grant an injunction and it still wants a full trial. A judge and lawyers will meet over the coming weeks to decide if there are grounds for such a trial.
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