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Council told to shop local


Council told to shop local

Business spokesman calls on council to prioritise ratepayers

Ciara Galvin

A leading businessman in the county has said Mayo County Council’s procurement policies are endangering local businesses in Castlebar and throughout the county.
Speaking at last week’s Castlebar Town Council meeting, President of Castlebar Chamber of Commerce Oliver Kelleher asked councillors why Mayo County Council sources goods, supplies and services from Dublin, Cork and other areas of the country instead of ‘here in Castlebar from people who pay their rates’.
“If they [business owners] were to get the business [from Mayo County Council], then they could [afford to] pay rates,” said Mr Kelleher.
Speaking about the process of procurement, Cllr Frank Durcan said it had caused more closures of small plant hire businesses in Mayo than anywhere else. Durcan criticised Mayo County Council’s Procurement Officer for the procurement policy.
“There’s machinery being brought from other areas of the country that isn’t even able to do the jobs, and perfectly good machinery in the county lying idle,” Cllr Durcan said.
Speaking to The Mayo News Castlebar Chamber President Oliver Kelleher said the Chamber had been approached by as many as 15 businesses raising the issue of being bypassed in the procurement process in favour of other businesses outside the county.
“If a supplier loses a contract with the council for €50,000 and is then still expected to pay €30,000 in rates how is this fair? Businesses are annoyed,” explained Mr Kelleher, adding that there was a need for transparency in the process.
“There seems to be a secrecy about it and we want to know why local contractors are losing out on contracts,” said the President.
Mr Kelleher said the chamber and businesses do not expect the council to pay 40 per cent more for goods from local businesses, adding that it should be about ‘price and quality’, but that the Council ‘should have an obligation to look after its customers’.
“These businesses are customers of the council after all, they pay their rates,” stated the business owner, adding ‘we’re paying the piper, we should at least be able to call some of the tunes’.
Speaking about the Council’s procurement process Cllr Peter Flynn said the current sourcing of goods and services from different companies around the country made ‘no sense’.
“If the Council are buying staples from one company, paper off another and elastic bands off another then they can’t leverage a bulk discount. It doesn’t make any sense,” stated the councillor. In relation to local businesses losing out to businesses from outside the county, Cllr Flynn said the Council should be doing everything they can to support local businesses.
“People need to go beyond looking at price. Without local businesses, local authorities wouldn’t exist.”
Acknowledging that the Council should source the best price, Cllr Flynn said if the difference in price is marginal between a local business and an outside competitor, then it should be justified to support local.
Cllr Flynn said the council’s current management of goods and services was ‘manual and outdated’ and in the end the cost of dealing with country-wide businesses would be greater in the long-term.
Responding to Mr Kelleher’s issues about the transparency of the process, Cllr Flynn said he didn’t see a reason why those who have been successful and unsuccessful in the procurement process weren’t on a public database.
“It should be very transparent and people should know why they missed out on a job,” he said.
Mr Kelleher said the issue of Mayo County Council getting value for money in the procurement process could be equated to local businesses wanting transparency in relation to rates.
“People are saying they’re paying rates but not getting value for money and they should be entitled to ask what they are getting in return for the rates.”
Asked if businesses would consider withholding rates as a result of dissatisfaction with the Council’s procurement policy, Mr Kelleher said he didn’t agree with illegally withholding rates but that it may come to that.
“If they [Mayo County Council] don’t come clean then businesses have talked about withholding rates and if they go that way the Chamber would have to support the traders.
“If we go down, we all go down together. If they pull out of local contracts why should we support them,” concluded the President.  
Defending the procurement policy of the council last week, County Manager Peter Hynes said he was ‘absolutely satisfied’ that the council has a ‘very efficient’ procurement section.

HAVE YOUR SAY email ciaragalvin@mayonews.ie with your comments