BOLTON Council spent £600,000 more on maintenance jobs this year than in 2012/13 — but local contractors have missed out on the bonanza because of a complex new tendering process.
Councillors and local firms have criticised the local authority for implementing a time-consuming “online procurement framework”, which is reportedly deterring small Bolton companies with few staff from applying for jobs.
The new procedure — a result of new government legislation — has reportedly seen more maintenance work allocated to national contractors ahead of local ones.
Figures, released after a Freedom of Information Request, show the amount the council spends on planned and reactive maintenance has increased by about 50 per cent last year.
The council spent £1,289,180 in 2012/13, but has committed £1,907,765 so far during this financial year.
Bolton Council said the difference was due to reduced capital funding from central government and denied the hike had anything to do with more work being done by national firms.
It insisted a “key” element of its procurement strategy was encouraging local companies to tender for work.
Cllr Bob Allen, for Heaton and Lostock, said: “It is quite a complex system for local firms with small staff to use, filling out diversity assessments and health and safety forms. It’s simple economics — if money is kept in Bolton it will be spent in our businesses and boost our town.”
Among his criticisms were that the council’s definition of local was within 30 miles, an area which includes Blackburn, Manchester and parts of Yorkshire.
Bryan Griffith, owner of ‘B’ Clean Carpet Cleaning, said he occasionally did work for the council, but not anymore.
He added: “I’m a big believer that the benefits of council spending should be felt locally.
“The system before worked fine and the council used to divvy up the work fairly. I have serious reservations about the council’s explanation — what about the costs of these firms outside Bolton going back to base for supplies?”
Planned and reactive maintenance refers to work on council premises, such as building, plumbing, plastering, decorating, cleaning and electrics.
A Bolton Council spokesman said: “The council has carried out roughly the same amount of work on its buildings in both 2012/13 and 2013/14, however it has been funded from different sources.
“In 2013/13, following a reduction in government capital funding, the council has had to use more money from its revenue budgets.”