From the TUC

European Court confirms cost not the only public procurement criterion

12 May 2012, by in Public services

The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that public bodes can take into account social and environmental concerns when deciding on who gets public procurement contracts. Cost is definitely not the only issue, as successive British Governments have claimed – most recently in the Bombardier case. Ignoring the social and environmental impacts of public procurement – issues like paying fair wages, providing training, and local sourcing of products – is therefore a political choice, not a requirement of European directives.

The Court was ruling on a Dutch case where the Province of North Holland had required coffee machines – of all things! – to have certain environmental labelling. And whilst the Court ruled against the Province on the details of the case (beccause it had just required certain eco-labelling rather than including the underlying environmental standards to be met in tenders), the judgment defines what the public sector is required to do to so that social and environmental objectives can be included in the procurement process.

The EU procurement directives are currently under review, and unions are arguing for clearer language on these issues, so the Court judgment will be very helpful in setting down how that language could be drafted. But the Court’s judgment is also immediately applicable to all public procurement in the UK, and the Government should make it clear to all that social and environmental standards can and should be included in all future contracts.

The Fair Trade Advocacy Office, an NGO with which trade unions in Europe work closely, welcomed the judgment. Its Executive Director, Sergi Corbalán, said “we welcome the confirmation by the European Court that Fair Trade criteria can be supported through public procurement under the current EU rules.”

One Response to European Court confirms cost not the only public procurement criterion

  1. Caroline Molloy
    May 14th 2012, 1:56 pm

    Such moves are welcome when considering things that have always been tendered in private sector. But also important to remember that despite heavy policy pressure from above, there remains no legal requirement on commissioners to tender frontline services currently in the public sector, from local government to NHS. Gloucestershire NHS High Court case made this clear, as does experience from elsewhere in country, notably our northern (and of course Welsh and Scottish) colleagues. As a movement we need to do more to reveal the Tory spin, blaming big bad EU, which is occluding the real points of resistance, before the pro-privateers demolish public sector provision entirely, long before 2015.