Procurement matters, it might not seem like a very exciting topic but it should be. Some people might say that in these difficult financial times we should be looking for the cheapest bottom line and that's it. Well in my opinion that sort of attitude is just not good enough. As in most things there is more to life than just the cost.
On Monday evening Dundee City Council committed itself to paying the Living Wage to council employees. I was very pleased with this. I think that the City Council must now go further and ensure that workers in arms-length organisations also get the Living Wage. We should go further still and look at ways in which the Council can insist on those who are employed on contracts with the Council also receive the Living Wage. There are ways that this could be included in contracts if we were imaginative enough. Using procurement processes to promote this is important.
Also on Monday night the Leader of the Council suggested that he was not that bothered about the fact that the new Forth crossing is investing in jobs in China, Poland and Spain. As the SNP Government have claimed, he suggested that Scottish steel could not be used on the bridge because it was the wrong type of steel, sounds a bit like the wrong type of snow. He also claimed that no Scottish firm bid for the contract, this is because of the way the procurement process was set up. Public bodies should be very wary of setting up procurement processes which mean that local businesses are excluded. We should be using this huge infrastructure investment to create jobs in Scotland not in China.
The UK Government has recently attacked Remploy factories across the country. Thankfully, for now, the Dundee Remploy factory has been saved but over 100 disabled workers in Scotland are going to lose their jobs. My colleague, Jenny Marra MSP, has suggested that local authorities should look at ways in which they can ensure that business goes the way of organisations such as Remploy. She has pointed out that Remploy could supply the new uniforms for the proposed single police and fire services. There is scope for a lot of different work which could go Remploy's way. Councils and other public bodies should look at ways of delivering this. We should be looking for ways in which our investment adds value to the local area.
Councils and other public agencies should be concerned about procurement. We should be concerned about the ethics of what we buy. When councils and other public bodies enter into contracts they should be concerned about health and safety, about training and apprenticeships, about rates of pay, about environmental impacts, about local jobs, about things like fairtrade. Councils should recognise that they can make a difference through the procurement process and they should recognise that money that they invest on behalf of local people should be used to benefit as many local people as possible. There are many things that are more important than the bottom line; procurement matters and councils and other public bodies can make a difference.