Row after council gives £14k South Lakeland video job...to firm from Cheshire

SOUTH Lakeland District Council has been criticised for awarding lucrative council contracts to firms outside of the area.

The row was sparked after SLDC awarded a £14,000 job to film the area to a video production company from Cheshire.

Local bidders are angry because the contract was on behalf of the council’s economic arm called Invest In South Lakeland and claimed their price was lower.

One tender, who asked not to be named, said: “It is beyond laughable.”

The Gazette has been passed documents showing SLDC awarded:

n £100,000 to a Manchester-based demolition firm to flatten the £3.5million Berners Pool in Grange n £54,000 to Lincolnshire and Staffordshire firms for SLDC's in-house newspaper South Lakeland News

n £25,000 to a Mersey-based consultant for drawing up the Heritage Lottery bid for Grange Lido

n £306,000 contract to Birkenhead bailiffs to claw back unpaid council tax and business rates

n £90,000 to a Leicestershire business to get rid of local roadside weeds

Tory opposition councillors and Labour MP John Woodcock called on the Lib-Dem run council to rethink its policies.

However, council chief Lawrence Conway hit back saying strict UK procurement legislation does not allow favouritism to local firms.

And he produced figures showing that of the £23million of work given out by the council in 2011-12, it contracted 29 per cent to firms in South Lakeland and eight per cent went to firms in Cumbria.

Eden District Council awarded 42 per cent of its contracts to Eden-based firms.

Mr Conway also stressed that companies from outside of the area winning SLDC contracts often employed local workforces.

“They don’t ship people in from Leicestershire to do jobs around here,” said Mr Conway.

“This has to be a process that is open, equitable and transparent. That doesn’t mean you can award them purely on the basis of them being local.”

He explained how SLDC has set itself tough new targets to increase the amount of work given to companies from 29 to 35 per cent.

Council staff now also provide training and information to help local companies meet the criteria for winning SLDC work.

“The public has to understand that sometimes we do not have the expertise sitting here in South Lakeland for us to use,” Mr Conway explained.

“We are a medium-sized, sparsely populated district with two thirds of it in the Lake District National Park. “For example, there are no bailiff firms in South Lakeland so we have had to go to Birkenhead. We champion the South Lakeland economy – we would never do anything that has a negative impact on it.”

But Coun David Williams, leader of the opposition Tories, said: “Had there been no firms interested in doing the video locally, then that’s another matter but to have four firms is a bit stupid. We would like to see the council doing more to help particularly the smaller firms sevice the contract procedure.”

Coun Ben Berry, said: “The irony of Invest in South Lakeland investing outside of South Lakeland is not lost on me. Whilst I firmly believe protectionism leads to ruin, the council must work far harder with local suppliers.”

Furness MP John Woodcock said: “The Gazette’s list of council contracts that could easily be fulfilled by our excellent local businesses but which have gone elsewhere makes for depressing reading. It’s open to question whether South Lakeland is doing all it can.”

Comments (11)

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7:01pm Wed 23 Oct 13

wezzyk says...

I am a bit confused on this, I thought local councils spending local council tax payers money were meant to spend wisely, not just spend locally. As a council tax payer I think my money should be spent carefully not about spending it locally. Yes offering work locally is obviously the preferred option if it meets the cost, value for money and any specification requirements.
I also think it is definitely not a one sided argument Councillor Berry states the council must work far harder with local suppliers but I think local suppliers need to sharpen their pencils and up their game. These are not local policies deciding who wins contracts as stated, they are UK policies under careful scrutiny, I know from past personal experience on submitting for council work, you need to be persistent, prepared to ask, learn and mostly listen. I compared the process to submitting a job application to a company and forgetting to put your name or phone number on: would you expect a knock on your door to invite to an interview?? Probably not, so why expect contracts to be awarded to you based on the fact that you are local when others have included everything and got it right?
Councillor Williams states 4 firms submitting were local but if they were overpriced, wrong spec or not following process why should they win?

Buy wisely not locally unless locally is wisely.
I am a bit confused on this, I thought local councils spending local council tax payers money were meant to spend wisely, not just spend locally. As a council tax payer I think my money should be spent carefully not about spending it locally. Yes offering work locally is obviously the preferred option if it meets the cost, value for money and any specification requirements. I also think it is definitely not a one sided argument Councillor Berry states the council must work far harder with local suppliers but I think local suppliers need to sharpen their pencils and up their game. These are not local policies deciding who wins contracts as stated, they are UK policies under careful scrutiny, I know from past personal experience on submitting for council work, you need to be persistent, prepared to ask, learn and mostly listen. I compared the process to submitting a job application to a company and forgetting to put your name or phone number on: would you expect a knock on your door to invite to an interview?? Probably not, so why expect contracts to be awarded to you based on the fact that you are local when others have included everything and got it right? Councillor Williams states 4 firms submitting were local but if they were overpriced, wrong spec or not following process why should they win? Buy wisely not locally unless locally is wisely. wezzyk
  • Score: 5

8:31pm Wed 23 Oct 13

Cas220 says...

Totally agree with wezzyk, tenders will have been looked at without taking the addresses into account. It's time people started to realise the local isn't always best (or indeed local, I can get more local produce in ASDA Kendal than I can in my 'local' greengrocer who imports from Spain!).

Good on SLDC for spending our money wisely!
Totally agree with wezzyk, tenders will have been looked at without taking the addresses into account. It's time people started to realise the local isn't always best (or indeed local, I can get more local produce in ASDA Kendal than I can in my 'local' greengrocer who imports from Spain!). Good on SLDC for spending our money wisely! Cas220
  • Score: 3

12:05am Thu 24 Oct 13

shirtbox2003 says...

having been in the demolition industry over 40 yrs I cannot see £100,000 being the best price for knocking down berners.sldc is being ripped off.let them show us the list of tenderers for the job and their prices. o,connor does not employ local people so its workers will travel to grange each day.in my opinion the job should have been priced at about £40,000.youve been ripped off again ratepayers by the clown hall.
having been in the demolition industry over 40 yrs I cannot see £100,000 being the best price for knocking down berners.sldc is being ripped off.let them show us the list of tenderers for the job and their prices. o,connor does not employ local people so its workers will travel to grange each day.in my opinion the job should have been priced at about £40,000.youve been ripped off again ratepayers by the clown hall. shirtbox2003
  • Score: 0

4:33pm Thu 24 Oct 13

hogheaven says...

It would have made sense to use local contractors, given that their tenders were competitive . Maybe the SLDC will make public the quotes from the firms who tendered to find out if it was done fairly ,after all we are local taxpayers paying for it even if we do not want the proposed result .
It would have made sense to use local contractors, given that their tenders were competitive . Maybe the SLDC will make public the quotes from the firms who tendered to find out if it was done fairly ,after all we are local taxpayers paying for it even if we do not want the proposed result . hogheaven
  • Score: 0

4:47pm Thu 24 Oct 13

MistakenIdentity says...

So council tax payers strongest preference is that we use local businesses whatever the price or quality? Really? Ludicrous! For once I side with the council. This reads as a result of sour grapes and nothing more.

As a local business I win some and I lose some. It's never good to lose but that's the nature of it. Every intelligent person knows the public sector is held down by legislation when purchasing.

I have first hand experience with the council procurement department and find them nothing but professional. Always reasonable. Yes, they used to be impenetrable but in the last couple of years it feels like there's been a change.

They do reach out to local businesses. As a member of several business networks I have been on the receiving end of this. In recent years they have provided me and other local business owners with support. I know I've taken up more time than is probably reasonable but they have always been willing and friendly. I must give the two young women who invited suppliers to meet with them last year. Their sessions were brilliant and have helped me make more of a success of my business with the public sector. They were friendly, professional and knowledgable.

Instead of giving the council another beating why don't these poor local businesses get in touch with them for help. I'm a local business and I can take on a fight with firms outside the area. A lot of that is thanks to the service South Lakeland provide and that I'm not naively expecting work to drop from the sky because of my postcode.
So council tax payers strongest preference is that we use local businesses whatever the price or quality? Really? Ludicrous! For once I side with the council. This reads as a result of sour grapes and nothing more. As a local business I win some and I lose some. It's never good to lose but that's the nature of it. Every intelligent person knows the public sector is held down by legislation when purchasing. I have first hand experience with the council procurement department and find them nothing but professional. Always reasonable. Yes, they used to be impenetrable but in the last couple of years it feels like there's been a change. They do reach out to local businesses. As a member of several business networks I have been on the receiving end of this. In recent years they have provided me and other local business owners with support. I know I've taken up more time than is probably reasonable but they have always been willing and friendly. I must give the two young women who invited suppliers to meet with them last year. Their sessions were brilliant and have helped me make more of a success of my business with the public sector. They were friendly, professional and knowledgable. Instead of giving the council another beating why don't these poor local businesses get in touch with them for help. I'm a local business and I can take on a fight with firms outside the area. A lot of that is thanks to the service South Lakeland provide and that I'm not naively expecting work to drop from the sky because of my postcode. MistakenIdentity
  • Score: 2

7:00pm Thu 24 Oct 13

Sazzle63 says...

I never comment but feel compelled to. Having worked with many councils as a supplier I can confirm that sldc have been exemplary. That credit goes to the procurement department and invest in South Lakeland. Not to the counsellors who beat the drum so loudly and inaccurately. It is wrong that they are being criticised this way. A bit of appreciation before we lose the people who have created a department that works at sldc.

As for those who aren't happy try getting work with Eden. Their doors are shut tight.
I never comment but feel compelled to. Having worked with many councils as a supplier I can confirm that sldc have been exemplary. That credit goes to the procurement department and invest in South Lakeland. Not to the counsellors who beat the drum so loudly and inaccurately. It is wrong that they are being criticised this way. A bit of appreciation before we lose the people who have created a department that works at sldc. As for those who aren't happy try getting work with Eden. Their doors are shut tight. Sazzle63
  • Score: 3

10:47pm Thu 24 Oct 13

Dug123 says...

This article seems very badly researched and by the looks of the comments seems to be so far from the truth. I myself have had contact with the procurement department and have nothing bit good things to say about the work they do. You can't just award contracts to Local supplies because they are local there needs to be common sense applied and quality and cost need to be a big factor on the selection process. As a council tax payer I will always side with spending money wisely and not just because it's being kept local. The council have a difficult enough job to do without bad press making it harder.
This article seems very badly researched and by the looks of the comments seems to be so far from the truth. I myself have had contact with the procurement department and have nothing bit good things to say about the work they do. You can't just award contracts to Local supplies because they are local there needs to be common sense applied and quality and cost need to be a big factor on the selection process. As a council tax payer I will always side with spending money wisely and not just because it's being kept local. The council have a difficult enough job to do without bad press making it harder. Dug123
  • Score: 3

11:25pm Thu 24 Oct 13

shirtbox2003 says...

I think we need to see some figures.i rest my case.
I think we need to see some figures.i rest my case. shirtbox2003
  • Score: 0

12:02am Fri 25 Oct 13

life cycle too says...

Part of the problem is the complexity of tendering for SLDC contracts.
It requires a lot of research and time to actually get to the bottom of what the council actually want.
That means it cost money to even contemplate working out a job and costing it accurately.

As a result, larger firms that can afford to employ somebody experienced in tendering, full time is at an immediate advantage over local firms, that are either small "one man band" operations, or small but competitive companies, but lack the resources to jump through the SLDC hoops.

I am one of those businesses - in the old days an SLDC officer would ring up and request a quote, and I would work out the cost and fax a quotation.

I do not have the time now to go on line, see what jobs the council are putting out for tender that are relevant to me, then work out all the requirements such as what is my carbon footprint, how many employees do I have, do I operate an ethical purchasing policy, etc., etc., as well as finally working out the cost of a job, so I no longer bother with SLDC.

I do more work for Dumfries and Galloway Council who use a Dumfries based company who are actually incapable of doing the work they tender for, and so farm it out to me!

SLDC would get better value if they contacted local firms, told them what was required, and what the expected price was, than tendering, but the rules forbid this... hence the possibility of a Leicestershire firm being paid to employ a LOCAL contractor to do a job - which the local contractor is OBVIOUSLY doing for SUBSTANTIALLY less money that the successful bidder is being paid!!
Part of the problem is the complexity of tendering for SLDC contracts. It requires a lot of research and time to actually get to the bottom of what the council actually want. That means it cost money to even contemplate working out a job and costing it accurately. As a result, larger firms that can afford to employ somebody experienced in tendering, full time is at an immediate advantage over local firms, that are either small "one man band" operations, or small but competitive companies, but lack the resources to jump through the SLDC hoops. I am one of those businesses - in the old days an SLDC officer would ring up and request a quote, and I would work out the cost and fax a quotation. I do not have the time now to go on line, see what jobs the council are putting out for tender that are relevant to me, then work out all the requirements such as what is my carbon footprint, how many employees do I have, do I operate an ethical purchasing policy, etc., etc., as well as finally working out the cost of a job, so I no longer bother with SLDC. I do more work for Dumfries and Galloway Council who use a Dumfries based company who are actually incapable of doing the work they tender for, and so farm it out to me! SLDC would get better value if they contacted local firms, told them what was required, and what the expected price was, than tendering, but the rules forbid this... hence the possibility of a Leicestershire firm being paid to employ a LOCAL contractor to do a job - which the local contractor is OBVIOUSLY doing for SUBSTANTIALLY less money that the successful bidder is being paid!! life cycle too
  • Score: 0

7:48am Fri 25 Oct 13

MistakenIdentity says...

life cycle too wrote:
Part of the problem is the complexity of tendering for SLDC contracts.
It requires a lot of research and time to actually get to the bottom of what the council actually want.
That means it cost money to even contemplate working out a job and costing it accurately.

As a result, larger firms that can afford to employ somebody experienced in tendering, full time is at an immediate advantage over local firms, that are either small "one man band" operations, or small but competitive companies, but lack the resources to jump through the SLDC hoops.

I am one of those businesses - in the old days an SLDC officer would ring up and request a quote, and I would work out the cost and fax a quotation.

I do not have the time now to go on line, see what jobs the council are putting out for tender that are relevant to me, then work out all the requirements such as what is my carbon footprint, how many employees do I have, do I operate an ethical purchasing policy, etc., etc., as well as finally working out the cost of a job, so I no longer bother with SLDC.

I do more work for Dumfries and Galloway Council who use a Dumfries based company who are actually incapable of doing the work they tender for, and so farm it out to me!

SLDC would get better value if they contacted local firms, told them what was required, and what the expected price was, than tendering, but the rules forbid this... hence the possibility of a Leicestershire firm being paid to employ a LOCAL contractor to do a job - which the local contractor is OBVIOUSLY doing for SUBSTANTIALLY less money that the successful bidder is being paid!!
This is why they offer such comprehensive support. They openly admit to the issues around tendering. Tendering has become much less burdensome to me after sitting down with the right people.

Whatever the government say it is only going to get worse tendering for council business not better. South Lakeland try to help smaller businessss through that in my experience.
[quote][p][bold]life cycle too[/bold] wrote: Part of the problem is the complexity of tendering for SLDC contracts. It requires a lot of research and time to actually get to the bottom of what the council actually want. That means it cost money to even contemplate working out a job and costing it accurately. As a result, larger firms that can afford to employ somebody experienced in tendering, full time is at an immediate advantage over local firms, that are either small "one man band" operations, or small but competitive companies, but lack the resources to jump through the SLDC hoops. I am one of those businesses - in the old days an SLDC officer would ring up and request a quote, and I would work out the cost and fax a quotation. I do not have the time now to go on line, see what jobs the council are putting out for tender that are relevant to me, then work out all the requirements such as what is my carbon footprint, how many employees do I have, do I operate an ethical purchasing policy, etc., etc., as well as finally working out the cost of a job, so I no longer bother with SLDC. I do more work for Dumfries and Galloway Council who use a Dumfries based company who are actually incapable of doing the work they tender for, and so farm it out to me! SLDC would get better value if they contacted local firms, told them what was required, and what the expected price was, than tendering, but the rules forbid this... hence the possibility of a Leicestershire firm being paid to employ a LOCAL contractor to do a job - which the local contractor is OBVIOUSLY doing for SUBSTANTIALLY less money that the successful bidder is being paid!![/p][/quote]This is why they offer such comprehensive support. They openly admit to the issues around tendering. Tendering has become much less burdensome to me after sitting down with the right people. Whatever the government say it is only going to get worse tendering for council business not better. South Lakeland try to help smaller businessss through that in my experience. MistakenIdentity
  • Score: 1

5:51pm Fri 25 Oct 13

wezzyk says...

shirtbox2003 wrote:
I think we need to see some figures.i rest my case.
They are there for everybody to look at, most just winge and moan for the sake of it and never will look further. Rest your case then.
[quote][p][bold]shirtbox2003[/bold] wrote: I think we need to see some figures.i rest my case.[/p][/quote]They are there for everybody to look at, most just winge and moan for the sake of it and never will look further. Rest your case then. wezzyk
  • Score: 2

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