By JOHN ROBERTSON
A COUNCIL bid to shave £1 million off its costs by taking part in national supply contracts will hurt local businesses, councillors heard this week.
The SIC has decided to join probably all other local authorities in Scotland in signing up to Scotland Excel and Procurement Scotland which will enable them to procure cheaper equipment and materials due to the economies of scale they command. If better deals are available locally they can opt out as and when they please.
Councillors at Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council backed the plan after hearing assurances that local food would remain top of the shopping list and help will be given to local companies in any sector which wish to try to join the national list of approved suppliers.
Waste services manager Jim Grant, who has been assigned to look at corporate procurement, has already discovered that the council could save 45 per cent on computers, pocketing £216,000 a year, and another £100,000, or 15-20 per cent, on its plumbing, building materials and electrical supply contracts.
Office and computer supplies and paper are also about 10 per cent cheaper if sourced through a national contract, Mr Grant reported, netting a saving of £50,000.
Another area being investigated is seeking a contract for the transport of council goods to Shetland to try to reduce shipping costs. The contract may be shared with the NHS and local council-funded trusts.
Among the range of goods and services which can be sourced under national contracts are photocopiers, phones, classroom materials, vehicles, library books, office furniture, rock salt, crisps, sports equipment, timber, tyres and wheelie bins.
Mr Grant said it was very difficult to estimate how much local firms might be hit by the changes. Between 20 and 30 per cent of the supplies are bought locally, he said, but some of that was from locally based national companies. “There will be an impact, without a doubt.”
Councillor Gussie Angus said he was very pleased to hear of the scheme because for too long the council’s procurement methods had been “haphazard and inefficient” and the possibility of saving £1m was “a prize worth going for”.
He suggested a central stores would be a good idea too, to end the “mad scramble” at the end of every financial year when officials try to spend their remaining budgets.
A graduate has been taken on to help ensure the maximum amount of local food is procured.
There were calls from one businessman this week for SIC convener Sandy Cluness to carry out an economic impact assessment.
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*The council’s transport manager Ian Bruce is to leave the local authority and two other senior infrastructure staff are taking on new duties as the result of an internal shake-up.
Mr Bruce is taking voluntary redundancy while transport development manager Ken Duerden has resumed control of inter-island ferries and taken on extra duties under the new job of transport operations manager, including overseeing the council’s airport at Tingwall.
Transport strategy official Emma Perring is being promoted to a new job which will take over some of Mr Bruce’s old duties and will see more focus on transport planning, consultation and research.
In a memo to council staff this week, head of transport Michael Craigie said he hoped the transport service would become more effective and efficient in delivering its services.