Brexit will allow councils to support local business, says MP

Councils should be given greater freedom to support local suppliers when Britain leaves the EU, an MP has said.

Daniel Kawczynski
Daniel Kawczynski

Daniel Kawczynski is backing calls by the Local Government Association (LGA) to relax rules on how councils buy goods and services after Brexit.

Mr Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said Brexit presented a golden opportunity for councils to support jobs and businesses in their area.

He spoke after the LGA, which represents councils across the UK, called for the Government to simplify competition rules when Britain leaves the EU.

At the moment authorities such as Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Councils have to follow EU-wide advertising and award procedures when they buy goods and services.

But the LGA said this sometimes made it more difficult to support the local economy, meant that tendering could take between three and 18 months – twice as long as in the private sector.

Despite the EU's stringent requirements, virtually no public contracts ended up being awarded to companies in other EU member states. Only 20 per cent of English councils received expressions of interest from companies based in other EU countries, while across Europe only 1.6 per cent of public contracts were awarded to companies in other member states.

Councillor Kevin Bentley of the LGA's Brexit group said adopting a lighter touch system when Britain left the EU would also reduce administration costs for small businesses.

He said: "The way councils spend money has a huge bearing on local growth and job creation. But EU rules over how they buy goods and services can stifle those efforts and take up time and money.

“Regulation of public procurement will clearly continue to be necessary when we leave the EU to allow councils to continue to demonstrate best value for money and ensure effective and fair competition.

“But introducing more local flexibility and easier procurement rules after Brexit would provide more community benefits and more growth opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises. It would also allow councils to promote local suppliers and local labour and ensure workers earn a decent wage.”

Local government contracts are worth about £55 billion to the UK economy, and Mr Kawczynski said that when Britain left the EU it would open up new opportunities for councils to support businesses in Shropshire.

"When we leave the EU, I would like to see Shropshire Council go to the nth degree to that as many goods and services as possible are from Shropshire," he said. "Whether that is providing food for our schools or information technology services for students, I want to see them using Shropshire businesses."

George Candler, Shropshire Council’s director of place and enterprise, said any moves which made it easier to support businesses would be welcomed.

"Shropshire Council would be supportive of any actions that would simplify the procurement rules for councils," he said.

"As a council we already place a strong emphasis on procuring what we do within Shropshire, therefore boosting the local economy, and have recently developed our Social Charter that further promotes this approach.”

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