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NEW PROCUREMENT LAWS RINGFENCE PUBLIC CONTRACTS FOR SUPPORTED BUSINESS

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The GMB trade union welcomes the new public procurement regulations that come into force today that mean that any l...
The GMB trade union welcomes the new public procurement regulations that come into force today that mean that any level of public authority, be it local, central government or NHS can now reserve any contract to be executed by supported factories or business where at least 50% of the workers are disabled. The new rules on public sector and utilities contracts set out what public authorities can and can't do when they spend public money, and implement changes to the EU Public Procurement Directives agreed in 2004.

GMB is disappointed that the government and Scottish Executive have not gone further in promoting the social, ethical and environmental contracting within the regulations themselves, relegating these important developments to supplementary guidance. GMB believes this is a missed opportunity to boost social, employment and environmental considerations in developing a more sustainable approach to procurement, which it believes has wide support from the taxpaying public.

GMB acting general secretary Paul Kenny said: 'Public authorities across Europe spend around£1,000bn a year on public contracting, and that is a lot of spending power wherever you come from! Best value in public contracting is not the lowest price, and GMB believes that the taxpaying public is more concerned than ever about the labour standards and conditions, and the environmental considerations operating where public money is used to buy goods and services. Public authorities have a duty to consider this as far as possible in their contracting decisions, but we feel that the new laws do not encourage consideration of these vital issues in the body of the regulation itself, though they are clearly there in the European Directive texts.'

A key positive change in the rules warmly welcomed by GMB, having campaigned tirelessly for its inclusion, is the long awaited scope to reserve contracts for supported employment factories and businesses for disabled people.

GMB national secretary for supported employment, Phil Davies said: 'GMB has been the driving force at both European and National level in the campaign to create a level playing field for our many members in supported employment, and allow them a fair chance to win public contracts which are a vital source of quality work for a very highly skilled sector of the labour market. GMB now wants to see every public authority reserving contracts to help promote much needed quality employment opportunities not only securing freedom of choice and a future for disabled people already working in supported employment, but offering a new beginning for the too many disabled people who currently remain outside of the world of work.'

Notes

1: The Welsh Assembly has implemented the rules with the UK government, whilst the Scottish Parliament opted for separate implementation.

GMB has been closely involved at both European and National level of the revision process, calling for full force to be given to social, employment, ethical and environmental considerations in the contracting process. GMB believes that the revised EU rules widened the possibilities for considering these crucial issues, and went beyond mere clarification of the scope to consider these dimensions, as the government and Scottish Executive maintain.

2: The Welsh Assembly has implemented the rules with the UK Government, whilst the Scottish Parliament opted for separate implementation.

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