End compulsory tenders, says BSA

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The Independent Online
The association representing leading business services companies has urged an end to the Government's policy of compulsory competitive tendering for local council contracts because it claims many authorities are biased against the private sector.

In evidence to be submitted today to the Nolan inquiry into conduct in local government, the Business Services Association, whose members include Rentokil and caterers Gardner Merchant, will claim some companies operate unofficial blacklists of as many as half the councils in England and Wales.

Local authorities are required by law to put out services such as rubbish collection, catering, cleaning, security and buildings management to competitive tender. The association estimated the total value of the work involved was more than pounds 10bn. However, the process has been criticised as wasteful and bureaucratic. Some services had been put out to tender two or three times, yet in many cases councils had failed to select private companies to do the work.

The association's director general, Norman Rose, said: "It is time rather more consideration was given to the needs of the council taxpayer and a little less to protecting inefficient local authorities."

He said that in one case a London council had been unable to find a single outside bidder for a service because private sector companies had given up tendering with the authority.

"At best some of their practices are misguided and misplaced. At worst they are dishonest, withholding information from bidders and sharing a determination that work will not go outside come what may," Mr Rose said.