Local government and ethical procurement debate
Many of you will have read about the government’s new guidance which aims to prevent public bodies – including local councils and universities – from making ethical choices about whom they buy from, who they offer contracts to, and where they invest. This could reverse the many positive efforts public bodies have made to move their money away from illegal Israeli settlements and companies involved in human rights abuses. The guidance goes against the government’s own advice and international law.
The Government has issued this guidance without even discussing this in Parliament or consulting the public. It is not only an attack on human rights; it is an attack on our local democracy.
Now MPs have called for a debate on this issue. MPs have a chance to ask the Government to make clear that this guidance does not block councils and other public bodies from having ethical procurement policies.
Councillors letter in support of local democracy
Scores of councils have in recent years taken steps such as adopting fair trade principles or excluding fossil fuel, tobacco and arms companies from their investment portfolios, following campaigns by pension fund members and local citizens.
Many councils have passed motions stating they will not procure services from companies that avoid tax, aid and abet Israeli violations of international law or from construction companies that blacklist trade union members.
The Government now aims to undermine the right of councils to make democratic decisions reflecting local public opinion and the views of local authority pension fund members, who under current proposals would have less rights to influence pension fund investment decisions than those investing in personal pensions.
These proposals fatally undermine the government’s stated commitment to transfer power to local government and communities and represent a serious attack on local democracy.
We urge the government to reconsider.
Cllr Paul Bull