Council defend ‘buy local’ policy in wake of buffet sickness row

Sunderland City Council  Cabinet Secretary Coun Mel Speding.
Sunderland City Council Cabinet Secretary Coun Mel Speding.
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COUNCIL bosses have defended their record of buying from local businesses after they were criticised by a Wearside caterer.

The Echo revealed that a buffet served at Sunderland Civic Centre, which was the centre of a sickness and diarrhoea scandal, had been provided by a company outside of the city.

This prompted Adam Dodsworth, owner of Wearside deli Roll With It, to question how this matched up with the council’s own Buy Sunderland First campaign.

The council said that the campaign only applied to contracts worth more than £5,000 and that they were awarded on the basis of value for money.

Coun Mel Speding, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet secretary, said: “Sunderland City Council works hard to promote local business and continues to perform very strongly in attracting inward investment into the local economy.

“The city council annually spends more than £40million with local firms, and seeks to ensure that local firms are aware of, and can bid for opportunities as they arise.

“The Buy Sunderland First system, which was the first of its kind in the region, has allowed the city council to build up a database of 1,247 local suppliers so that we can ensure registered local firms are included when we need to commission outside services and are inviting quotes.

“Contracts are awarded on the basis of value for money considering cost and quality.

“It is a requirement that for contracts valued between £5,000 and £75,000 written quotes are sought through the Buy Sunderland First IT system, which ensures that local suppliers are given the opportunity to bid.

“For lower value opportunities under £5,000, which are not part of a larger contract, the purchasing officer is not required to use this IT system given the costs associated with writing specifications, obtaining and evaluating quotes.

“However, the purchasing officer still needs to consider the use of competition, needs to be able to demonstrate value for money and would be expected to consider the use of local suppliers.

“On this specific occasion the catering was purchased from the firm that had previously won the contract for providing hospitality catering to the city council based on cost and quality, and where quotes had also been sought from a number of local suppliers.”

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