How will your choice in the general election affect the future of public sector procurement?

Could your choice spell reform for public sector buying?

In the wake of recent televised leader’s debates, featuring candidates from the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the SNP, and last night’s Paxman interviews with Labour and Conservative leaders, we thought we would take a closer look at the official manifestos and discover how your vote could impact the future of public sector procurement.

Of course, the uncertainties of Brexit coupled with the call for a snap General Election continue to heavily impact current and future tenders, with delays for major works limiting current opportunities. However, after 8th June, how would each major party plan to reform public sector procurement, if at all?

Considered the two front runners, vastly opposed in both history and ideals, the Labour Party and the Conservatives agree that one of the main focuses going forward for public sector procurement should be how the government tackles Modern Slavery. Continued exploitation of both British and foreign workers who feature in British supply chains led the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition to create the Modern Slavery Act in 2015; however, many feel that the legislation requires a more committed approach to its implementation.

This dedication to the dignity and rights of workers would appear to be the only policy described within the Conservative manifesto which relates directly to public sector procurement, however obvious improvements to national infrastructure and transport as stated within the manifesto will no doubt lead to an increase in contracts for these works.

Labour hope to implement further strategies to pursue meaningful change within public sector buying. Their policies would see elements such as extensive due diligence reporting for supply chains and tighter laws governing corporate accountability for abuses within these global supply chains. With this party’s historic links to trade unions well known, they also intend to use public spending as a mechanism to drive up standards, which could include only awarding public sector contracts to companies who openly recognise trade unions. Labour will also seek to reverse changes made to TUPE regulations, which were first implemented by the Conservatives in 2014.

The notion of fully implementing the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is echoed too by the Liberal Democrats, who intend to focus on good practice to ensure issues relating to modern slavery are tackled.

Focusing on more regional issues, Plaid Cymru, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats all seek to make tendering more accessible for smaller, local businesses. The Liberal Democrats have announced their plans to use central government procurement policy to promote local growth and community development by purchasing from more diverse sources, using local labour and services where possible. Plaid Cymru seeks to refocus public sector spending in Wales to benefit Welsh contractors, which would, in turn, hope to create 50,000 well paid public sector jobs.

The living wage was another area which different parties touched upon in relation to public sector procurement. Both Plaid Cymru and the SNP stated that lead public sector buyers should look more favourably upon those businesses who pay employees the living wage. Plaid Cymru would also insist that new public sector roles, created by the promotion of buying with Welsh companies and Welsh contractors, pay the living wage as standard. Their investments will focus heavily on infrastructure to aid the many rural areas who require further development.

Overshadowing the upcoming election, future Brexit negotiations will truly determine any changes made to public sector procurement. As UK public procurement law remains largely wrapped up within EU regulations, decisions on how to proceed may need to be put on hold until after a deal has been signed. It is clear that the main focus within this area of the manifestos is to protect the rights of workers throughout supply chains, a drive that will surely continue throughout the campaigning and beyond.

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