Local councils connect Scottish businesses to public contract opportunities through Supplier Development Programme
Public contracts worth £millions may have been awarded by West Dunbartonshire Council while procurement rules were suspended.
By Bill Heaney
A new announcement on procurement should be of particular interest to West Dunbartonshire Council, whose contract awarding procedures were such a shambles that they led to a police inquiry, a management team shake-up and the award of a £6,000 a year salary increase all round for eight newly-designated eight chief officers without reference to most elected members.
Contracts carried out during the period when the procurement system was suspended most probably included the £16 million Burgh Hall in Church Street, which was recently declared unfit for purpose since the original intention was to accommodate a certain number of employees but could not now do so.
The council will neither confirm or deny this or give any further details.
A number of new school projects – building and demolition – were awarded to contractors by the basket case, SNP controlled council during the period procurement was suspended.
West Dunbartonshire Council’s reaction when questioned about this has been to suspend one councillor, ban and boycott a local news service, award generous redundancy packages to some of the officers caught up in it and carry on in a “nothing to see here, please move on” manner.
Today Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council and Highland Council Shared Procurement Service have announced an initiative for local businesses looking for a new path to market in 2021.
Each year, £11bn is spent in Scotland’s public sector on goods, works and services, and the Shared Procurement Service wants to engage with local businesses to deliver a share of upcoming contracts.
Community Party Councillor Jim Bollan said the amount of council taxpayers’ money lost when the procurement system was suspended in West Dunbartonshire was said by the auditors to be “inetimable” and amounted to millions of pounds.
The three Northern councils have teamed up with the Supplier Development Programme (SDP), a free business support service that offers tender training and advice to Scottish micro, small and medium-sized businesses.
Jennifer Payne, a development officer with SDP, is helping to organise the online event.
She said: “No business is too small to get involved in public sector work. Even a one-person operation can have something to offer.
“A big problem for many micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is gaining the know-how they need to do business with the public sector.
“That’s why we work with local authorities like Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Highland Councils, so that local businesses can be invited to bid and learn skills to bid more successfully, to deliver the contracts on offer.”
A free webinar, called ‘Talking Tenders with Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Highland Councils’, will take place on Wednesday, 27 January at 2:00pm.
“Businesses impacted by the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are looking for a lifeline and a path out of this mess,” said Gillian Cameron, SDP programme manager.
“By registering free on the SDP website, SMEs and supported businesses across Scotland can access resources and free tender training to learn how to find, win and keep public sector contracts.
“This Talking Tenders webinar will allow businesses to learn about the Shared Procurement Service and its role across three local authorities.
“Businesses that participate will understand how the tender process works, and be able to ask questions to council staff about upcoming tender and framework opportunities that they can bid for in the near future.”
Suppliers can register for the free webinar on 27 January on the SDP Scotland website.
SDP is a publicly-funded partnership led by local authorities, working in conjunction with Scottish Government and other public bodies, to bring Scottish SMEs support in all aspects of tendering. By assisting businesses to become tender ready for public procurement, SDP improves all-round efficiency, sustainability and market potential.
In Scotland, there is an annual public spend of £11 billion. In the UK, there is an annual public spend of £240billion. SDP Scotland offers free training throughout Scotland to Scottish SMEs to support and champion them tendering for this work. Visit sdpscotland.co.uk for more information.