Councils call for ‘lighter touch’ procurement post Brexit

18 August 2017

Council leaders have called for public procurement rules to be relaxed after the UK leaves the EU.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for a ‘lighter touch’ set of rules to speed up the procurement process, reduce the cost to business and give more scope to promote local growth.

It said councils wanted more power to use local suppliers, specify a minimum or living wage suppliers must pay employees and ask for other social value targets – for example asking suppliers to hire or train local people. EU procurement regulations currently restrict the ability of councils to put such requirements in their tenders.

Councillor Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit task and finish group, said: “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… But introducing more local flexibility and easier procurement rules after Brexit would provide more community benefits and more growth opportunities for SMEs [and] allow councils to promote local suppliers and local labour.”

The LGA, which represents councils, parishes and other local government bodies, said that while tendering opportunities currently need to be advertised across the EU, only 20% of English councils receive expression of interest from companies based in other EU countries.

Across Europe only 1.6% of public contracts are awarded to companies based in another member state, it added.

Earlier this year, Simon Edwards, director at the County Councils Network, called for more public sector input on Brexit. “It’s fairly obvious that there isn’t a seat, there’s no table and there’s probably not even a single room or group of people for local government and the public sector to engage in on their issues and discussions around Brexit,” he said.

The LGA said it had decided to stay neutral through the Brexit referendum campaign and afterwards because of a “diversity of views among local government about Britain’s membership of the EU”.

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