The Local Government Association has expressed concern that the wording of the Procurement Bill will require the public sector to spend time and money seeking market solutions for goods and services which can currently be delivered effectively by collaborative arrangements within the public sector.
The LGA’s comments came as the Bill reaches the committee stage in Parliament.
The Association said it broadly welcomed the Government’s proposed reforms to public procurement including enshrining in law the objectives of public procurement, and said it was pleased that many of its concerns arising from the Green Paper had been resolved in the legislation as it was introduced in Parliament.
But it added that a number of areas remained within the Bill which might have “unintended consequences for local government and create new difficulties in meeting the procurement objectives whilst delivering high-quality public services”.
The LGA said: “We are concerned that the wording of the Bill will require the public sector to spend time and money seeking market solutions for goods and services which can currently be delivered effectively by collaborative arrangements within the public sector.
“It is vital that the Bill is amended to ensure councils can continue to work with other public bodies to jointly deliver efficient public services and value for money.”
More detail on the changes the LGA would like to see can be found in its briefing here.
The LGA also commented:
- It was positive that the Bill enabled Ministers to introduce regulation to allow local authorities to ring-fence lower-value public contracts to SMEs, VCSEs or suppliers within their local area through amending section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988. “This is much needed and would bring local authorities into line with the rest of the public sector who can already choose to ‘buy local’.” The LGA said it was therefore seeking to require the Government to amend the Local Government Act 1988 within six months of the Procurement Act passing, “to help councils to support local businesses and drive inclusive local economic growth”.
- The Government should amend the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970 to clarify that local authorities can now carry out procurement on behalf of any “contracting authority” as defined in the Procurement Act, not just the narrower list of “public bodies” defined in the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970. “This will enable councils to procure on behalf of a wider range of public bodies, to buy services or supplies at scale and deliver better value for money.
The Association said it strongly supported the aims of the single digital platform to enhance transparency and simplify the public procurement system for both buyers and suppliers.
However, it expressed concern that a range of differing requirements in existing legislation - which specify where and how public bodies must publish procurement information - undermined the single digital platform’s objectives.
The LGA therefore called on the Government to amend existing legislation which sets out differing requirements from those which will be required for the single digital platform. There also needs to be a requirement for any future laws requiring the publication of procurement information to use the single platform, it said.