Chance missed to green local government procurement

A new national procurement strategy for local government was issued by the Office of Deputy Prime Minister on 22 October.1 It pays scant regard to sustainability issues - in sharp contrast to new guidance on central government procurement.

The local government strategy was developed in response to the recommendations made by Sir Ian Byatt in his 2001 report on local government procurement in England. The review failed to offer a single recommendation to promote green procurement, despite a request to do so from the Government (ENDS Report 318, p 31 ).

In line with the Government's policy agenda of allowing councils more freedom and flexibility, the strategy includes a few broad objectives on sustainable procurement. For example, all councils in England are exhorted to build sustainability into their procurement strategies, processes and contracts by 2004. But the strategy contains no requirements or guidance on how to implement the sustainability goals.

Councils will be free to choose from a set of procurement performance indicators being drawn up by local government organisations. The Government will consult on whether the indicators should be converted into Best Value performance indicators.

In contrast, headway in greening central government procurement was made on 30 October with the publication by the Office of Government Commerce and the Environment Department of a revised joint note on environmental purchasing.2As foreshadowed by ENDS last month, the note spells out the message that the duty to seek "value for money" should apply only after environmental requirements have been included in specifications (ENDS Report 345, pp 22-26 ).

At the same time, the Government announced that from 1 November all new central government contracts must apply a new set of minimum environmental standards, covering issues such as energy efficiency and recycled content, when purchasing certain products. To assist them, the inter-departmental Sustainable Procurement Group has identified a number of environmental "quick wins".3The Government also published the SPG's long-awaited report and recommendations.4 All of its recommendations have been accepted by the Government, although some will take several years to deliver.

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