Durham County Council condemned over bin contract


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The Independent Online

A council has been criticised for awarding a multi-million-pound wheelie bin contract to a German firm despite a British company coming in with a quote which was £250,000 cheaper.

Durham County Council will spend £4.2 million on 225,000 "twin bins" from a German supplier, which will allow it to introduce fortnightly collections next year.

The switch from weekly collections will save the Labour-run authority around £1 million a year, but the change comes in defiance of the coalition Government's wishes.

Durham County Council must save around £150 million and faces losing 1,600 staff, yet it still awarded the contract to a German supplier, despite the cheaper offer from a British rival.

It claimed price alone was not the deciding issue, and European rules meant it could not favour a UK supplier.

Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It seems bizarre that the council decided to offer this contract to the German firm, when a UK company was offering a cheaper alternative.

"Clearly there is more to consider than just the cost when signing new contracts, but Durham County Council has to find millions in savings in the coming years, a saving of a quarter of a million pounds of taxpayers' money is not to be sniffed at.

"The decision-making process needs to be transparent so that local residents are satisfied that they are getting the best deal."

Doretta Cocks, of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, opposed the move to a fortnightly service, adding: "It beggars belief.

"At this time, British companies should be supported rather than European ones."

She suspected the German firm may be able to supply the bins more quickly than a UK firm.

She said: "I am not an expert in moulded plastic, but they cannot be that hard to make.

"It is a real kick in the teeth for the British manufacturers who must be thinking 'how did we lose this when we came in cheaper?"'

Darren Knowd, Durham County Council's corporate procurement manager, said: "The council has followed a rigorous procurement exercise following all EU regulations and clearly set out how the contract would be awarded.

"This was a high-value contract and it was made very clear to suppliers during the tender process that it would not be awarded on price alone as it was important that the council had confidence that the winning bidder could meet all of the council's requirements.

"Taking into account both the price and quality requirements of the project, the winning bidder produced the best all-round offer which provided the council with greater assurance that the project would be satisfactorily completed.

"The council is very committed to providing opportunities for the local business community and works hard in this regard with over 55% of contracts going to North East companies and it is important to note that the council is not allowed legally to favour UK companies."