Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron wants to devolve infrastructure spending ©PA Wire/PA Images
Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron wants to devolve infrastructure spending ©PA Wire/PA Images

Lib Dems will use procurement for 'local growth'

posted by Francis Churchill
17 May 2017

Public procurement will be used to develop local communities under the Liberal Democrats.

The party has pledged in its manifesto to use central government procurement policy “as a tool of local growth and community development” and it would encourage local government to do the same. It would do this by purchasing from diverse sources and using local labour, goods and services.

It also said it would to devolve significant infrastructure spending to local areas. “Local autonomy with real financial muscle is the only sustainable answer to the regional [prosperity] divide,” it said.

Published today, the manifesto's main commitments include a soft Brexit – maintaining membership of the single market and customs union – and increased spending on healthcare and schools. The document also included a number of policies that would impact both private and public procurement.

The Lib Dems made a number of infrastructure commitments, including the continuation of HS2, Crossrail and rail electrification.

They will invest in internet infrastructure to ensure fibre-optic broadband connections with a minimum speed of two gigabits a second was standard by 2020. The manifesto said it would prioritise connecting SMEs, and would double the number of SMEs in the digital economy.

In addition to investment in the green economy, the Lib Dems said they would introduce a legally-binding greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% by 2040 and zero by 2050. They will oppose fracking but accept the need for new nuclear power stations.

Without going into details, the party said it would introduce a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme and ban the sale of diesel cars and small vans by 2025. Other green initatives include the extension of ultra-low-emission zones to 10 more towns and cities and a policy that all private hire vehicles and diesel buses operating in urban areas must run ultra-low or zero-emission fuels within five years.

Rail franchises would be changed to have a stronger customer focus, the manifesto said, and public sector bodies and employee-passenger mutual groups would be allowed to bid. In the short term, the Lib Dems said government-run companies would take over the Southern Rail and Govia Thameslink franchises with a long-term plan to make the management of these contracts more sustainable. Local authorities would also be given greater control over the franchises.

The manifesto also pledged to increase the powers the Groceries Code Adjudicator, extending its remit to include businesses further up the supply chain.

Yesterday Labour’s manifesto said it was committed to a procurement process that supported Britain’s steel industry, and that the UK would maintain membership of the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement after Brexit. The Conservative party have not yet released their manifesto.

The general election takes place on 8 June.

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