Making Brexit work for Brighton and Hove

Posted On 17 Aug 2017 at 6:03 am

As a city with an international outlook, it’s easy to understand the reservations many people have about Brexit. But it’s happening and the most important thing now is to make it work.

One of the things happening behind the scenes is that councillors and officials are looking at which European Union rules may be harmful to local economies, costing huge sums of money at the expense of local jobs and services.

One example of this is the EU procurement regime. Brighton and Hove a City Council spends a small fortune each year advertising contracts across the EU for work which attracts few if any bids from businesses in other EU member states.

Ensuring that the council is legally compliant with those EU rules also costs money. And the money that it costs the council to comply with the EU rules – a substantial sum – could be better spent on services for local residents.

Freed from the EU rules, Brighton and Hove and other councils could look at when it is appropriate to require that contracts are given to local suppliers – and on what terms.

The council could specify minimum wage levels, that training is given to apprentices or a significant proportion of employees are local.

This approach has worked when the council grants planning permission with conditions that require developers to employ a reasonable percentage of their workers from the local area.

It’s not just the jobs and the cash going into the local economy. Think, for instance, about the traffic and transport implications. Few people, if any, want the rush-hour to be unnecessarily busier.

The current rules make it too hard for small local businesses in particular to bid for the many supplier and service contracts that are vital if councils and other public services like hospitals and universities are to function efficiently and without costing taxpayers more than they should.

In too many respects the system is geared towards bigger international businesses rather than the self-employed, the start-up or the small family firm.

Councillor Steve Bell

This is only one small example of the work that politicians will have to do – and are doing – to ensure Brexit works for Britain – and of course for Brighton and Hove.

It could mean quicker and simpler procurement, more work for local businesses, more jobs for local people and more money for local public services.

Of course, there will be times when the best deal is with a business from abroad – just as there are now.

And public services will be free to find the best deal whether it’s with local suppliers or with those from overseas.

We will still trade with our friends in Europe. And we will be as welcoming as ever – thousands, for example, will still host language students in their homes every year.

But outside the European Union, we will be able to look at this in a much more flexible way so that Brexit works for Brighton.

Councillor Steve Bell is deputy leader of the opposition Conservative group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Ian Chisnall Reply

    It is rather dispiriting that Cllr Bell seems to be a bit out of touch with the processes. The procurement process he seems to be complaining about is known as OJEU and this sets limits below of which they do not apply. The business i work for has tendered for several contracts both above and below these thresholds and it is certainly true that the process is more costly and more complex for both the applicant and the public sector agency above the threshold. However as he suggests even post Brexit he would want contracts to be accessible to overseas companies and doing so will bring us to where OJEU currently is. The threshold is currently £164k for most elements and £4M for building contracts. The threshold is £62k for small works. To suggest that these limits are a barrier to small business, bearing in mind these are contracts for single pieces of work is clearly ridiculous. If the contract in question is going to represent more than say 10% of the turnover of the company, then there are questions if the company can take on the contract without it having a dispraportionate impact. Of course there is plenty of scope for improving the criteria for both the OJEU and non OJEU rules, but this is public money that is being put into the frame and it is down to our politicians to listen to businesses to improve matters.

    • Rostrum Reply

      I believe all he is saying is that this country will make its own rules that fit our needs rather than those used by the EU.. Neither rediculas nor out of touch !

  2. Jacqueline Madders Reply

    Rostrum…nailed it. Steve Bell know exactly what he is talking about and has a great vision.

  3. Eugenius Reply

    Out of touch? Steve Bell looks in touch with the concerns of businesses and taxpayers to me. The broad principles of the OJEU framework are sensible and some of the details have even been simplified in recent years, partly down to lobbying by British businesses and the Government. But the Government and councils and other public sector organisations have a nasty habit of ‘gold-plating’ the rules in a kind of ‘belts and braces’ way, and when they do, that always favours big business over small firms. Members of my family run a financially-sound sub-contracting business. There is plenty of work they could do for the council and the NHS but the public sector tends to use the basic OJEU rules no matter how big or small the contract. Now that’s ok if you’re a big business with lawyers who know their way around the OJEU rules but my relatives’ firm is too small for that sort of thing. Every tender has to be written on top of their day job. Outside the EU there will be no excuse – no blaming Brussels – for over-complicated tendering rules. This is an example of what I understand the Brexiteers to mean when they talk about taking back control. Implemented properly, it will save councils and the NHS money, although I doubt it will amount to £350m a week!

  4. Pingback: The challenge of public procurement | ianchisnall

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