Report of the Chief Operating Officer.
The Committee considered a Report of the Chief Operating Officer concerning the Responsible Procurement Policy. Noting that the appendices were missing from the Report, the Chairman asked the Committee clerk to circulate these to Members as soon as possible.
Officers informed Members that, at its last meeting on 9th June, whilst being generally supportive of the direction of travel, the Policy and Resources Committee decided to defer its approval of this Report due to concerns about whether the responsible procurement weighting of 15% was appropriate; officers would be considering these concerns and would be coming back to P&R at its next meeting on 7th July with a revised Report.
Consequently, the Chairman proposed that Members provide the Town Clerk, in consultation with the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, delegated authority to approve the revised Report, on behalf of the Finance Committee once it had been scrutinised by P&R in July.
In response to concerns about the length of the implementation period, officers assured Members that this was required to build in the time to prepare small and micro businesses to meet the expectations and criteria of the Corporation’s procurement opportunities.
Separately, reflecting that several local authorities frequently included a 20% weighting, officers clarified that the proposed 15% weighting at the City Corporation should be seen as the base level, and, on a case-by-case basis tenders could include a higher weighting for responsible procurement if appropriate. The base 15% weighting was considered by officers to be, on balance, the optimal level.
Whilst supporting the broad aims in the Report, several Members raised concerns that the small and micro businesses that the City was aiming to work with would still struggle to achieve the criteria; it was vital that barriers were kept at a minimum, the administration involved was pragmatically applied and was simplified as much as possible, and the City’s engagement with potential SME suppliers was ongoing and robust. Public procurement rules were intended to be kept transparent in order to avoid corruption, however, this had resulted in a level of complexity which was wholly unsuitable for small and micro suppliers to navigate successfully, so any attempt to simplify the process, whilst remaining compliant with the rules, was to be welcomed.
In response to these concerns, officers emphasised that, whilst the weighing was important, it was a component of the City’s wider efforts to work with small and micro businesses. Simplicity and clear assertive communications were critical, as was taking a realistic approach when going out to tender. Whilst recognising the legal limitations around enforcing positive discrimination when it came to public procurement, Officers were also working on ways in which, on a case-by-case basis, a greater number of suppliers owned and operated by those from ethnic minorities and women were submitting tenders.
RESOLVED – that the Committee delegated authority to the Town Clerk, in consultation with the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Finance Committee to approve the recommendations, once these had been considered in a revised Report at the meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee on 7th July.