East Ayrshire Council increased its spending on services and supplies in the authority to £36m million - and is pushing to get more on board.

Outlining the council’s corporate procurement strategy at EAC’s cabinet, chief governance officer David Mitchell said that procurement was not simply about getting getting the cheapest contracts or meeting the bare minimum standard.

He said: “It is not about minimum compliance with the rules, it’s very much about maximising the benefits that can be achieved. It’s about improving them [contracts] as you go.

“It is about having a better contract if there’s room for improvement next time around.”

He pointed out the importance of a variety of aspects when tendering, including promotion of the living wage, health and safety, use of fairly traded goods, animal welfare and improving the health and wellbeing of communities.

Mr Mitchell also referred to the Scottish Government’s public procurement strategy.
He said that it included the aim of using collective spending power across the public sector to deliver ‘sustainable and inclusive economic growth’.

Cumnock Chronicle: Chief Governance Officer David MitchellChief Governance Officer David Mitchell (Image: East Ayrshire Council)

“It isn’t just about the cheapest. It isn’t just about value for money,” he said.

“That’s part of it but it’s also trying to obtain value for money while maximizing the benefits not just to the council, but also to the local economy by seeking to engage and include local businesses local suppliers wherever it’s feasible and and competent to do so.”

Mr Mitchell said that East Ayrshire Council’s spend across the three Ayrshire authorities in 2022/23 increased by 6.65 per cent to £58m, with £36m of that specifically in East Ayrshire.
That is around a third of EAC’s entire procurement outlay.

The number of local contractors used was also up by 13.7 per cent to 406, with 260 based in East Ayrshire.

Mr Mitchell said: “It’s an improving picture and we continue to work and engage to maximize that so it’s not just about words and lofty ambitions, it’s actually about being able to demonstrate that there is continuing progress and a continuing increase in the reach of our spend at a local level.”

He talked specifically about food supplies, saying: “We also highlight that we have amplified our arrangements around securing food to reflect the absolute emphasis that our catering colleagues put on our school meal service and the quality of ingredients rather than just the cost.

“That’s a prime area where cheapest isn’t always best. But equally you need to get the balance between value for money and quality.”

Cumnock Chronicle: East Ayrshire Council headquarters in Kilmarnock.East Ayrshire Council headquarters in Kilmarnock. (Image: East Ayrshire Council)

Council leader Douglas Reid said: “Food is a good example of where community wealth building is at the heart.”

Councillor Graham Barton asked how the council approaches gaps in local suppliers.

Mr Mitchell gave a hypothetical example of a contract with a company in London.

He said: “If we’re spending money in London on a significant recurring basis then you look and say why are there no bids coming in [locally].

“A good strategy has market engagement, so you talk to the market and try and find out if there are no suppliers locally, what are the impediments and why are we having to deal with London in whatever particular area of supply we’re talking about? What are the the obstacles?

“If there is a gap in the local market that would be something we should be trying to engage through local suppliers, but also the supply market to see if there are ways to connect that up and and create a local economy.”