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TORFAEN: Council contracts question

Torfaen Civic Centre in Pontypool

LOCAL businesses should register with a Welsh Government website if they want to win more work from their local authorities, a councillor has said.

The Sell2Wales website lists contracts and tenders publicly funded organisations in Wales want carried out, from building work and surveys, to providing oysters for a marine conservation project in Milford Haven.

Sue Morgan, the executive member for resources on Torfaen County Borough Council\’s cabinet. The Labour councillor represents Pontnewydd in Cwmbran.

Cllr Sue Morgan, who has responsibility for the £110 million spent every year by Torfaen Borough Council with third party suppliers, said the council is required, by its rules, to have competition for firms to supply it with goods and services.

She said: “As a council we try to use Sell2Wales as much as possible and it is really worth all members encouraging local suppliers to register so they see opportunities as soon as they are advertised.”

The council also has a framework of pre-approved suppliers it can use when it is more efficient and better value than an open tender process, but Cllr Morgan said regulations prevent councils from showing “any bias” to local suppliers for contracts above a threshold of around £220,000 including VAT.

She was responding to a question from Llantarnam independent councillor David Thomas at the council’s December 5 meeting who asked if local businesses in Torfaen have access to council contracts and if they are “prioritised over businesses outside of Torfaen”?

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Cllr David Thomas, individual independent member for Llantarnam on Torfaen Borough Council

Cllr Thomas told the council chamber at the Civic Centre in Pontypool: “There appears to be a trend of Torfaen County Borough Council contracts being let outside the borough.”

Labour’s Cllr Morgan, who is the cabinet member for finance, said the council is working to get a “clear and consistent picture” of how much of its third party spend is within Torfaen and said she isn’t aware of “any reliable data” of a trend as suggested by Cllr Thomas.

But the Pontnewydd councillor said there is an early indication “at least 24 per cent of our third party spend is with organisations with a Torfaen postcode.”

She also said the council has to balance factors including value for money, sustainable supply and the environmental impact when considering its spending and added: “There is a lot of debate about what is local? Is it Torfaen, Gwent or the city region boundaries?

“What makes a company local? Is it enough to have an office address in Torfaen?”

She added the cabinet had also approved a socially responsible procurement strategy, in November last year, that runs through to 2027 that aims to make procurement more accessible to small businesses and the third sector with a goal that they can “easily find and access” council contracts and can bid for contracts to directly supply the authority.

That would help them win contracts in Torfaen, and elsewhere, and Cllr Morgan said: “We want more of our spending to be with local businesses and the third sector and see a greater number bidding for and winning contracts to supply Torfaen council.”