Maude backs EU procurement changes

15 Jan 14

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has hailed changes to streamline European Union procurement rules as a win for the UK

The European Parliament has agreed revisions to EU procurement directives, intended to make public procurement simpler, quicker and less costly for both buyers and providers.

Among the changes are new criteria for the letting of concession contracts. These will allow bidding authorities to place more emphasis on environmental considerations, social aspects and innovation and are intended to make competition fairer and ensure best value for money.

‘The new criteria will put an end to the dictatorship of the lowest price and once again make quality the central issue,’ said Marc Tarabella, the Parliament’s rapporteur for procurement.

Red tape for bidders has also been cut back, reducing the administrative burden on companies by around 80%, according to European Commission estimates. The new rules also encourage the division of contracts into lots, which should make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to bid for contracts.

Tougher rules on subcontracting and ‘social dumping’ will also be applied, which could see contractors that do not abide by EU labour laws excluded from bidding.

Welcoming the changes, Maude said: ‘I am pleased that this new procurement directive includes several wins for the UK government. My officials and I have been lobbying on this directive in Brussels and with other members states.’

He added they would also encourage more public service mutuals to spin out from the public sector as there is a provision to allow some health, social and educational contracts to be reserved to employee mutuals provided certain conditions are met.

‘EU rules used to make it hard for government to exclude suppliers with a poor performance record and so it’s good news that the changes will make it easier for us to manage contracts effectively.’

The NHS Confederation said the greater flexibility opened up new possibilities.

‘Public procurement rules have often been perceived as an obstacle to the development and spread of innovation,’ said Elisabetta Zanon, director of the confederation’s European office.

‘The new directive seeks to address this by introducing a new procurement procedure, called Innovation Partnership, for the development and subsequent purchase of innovative products and services.’

Once the directives have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union for 20 days, member states have 24 months to implement the provisions of the directive into national law.

Maude said the rules would be transposed into UK law ‘quickly’.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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