Councillor and campaigners hit out at "rubbish" ethical procurement policy

Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall
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A councillor and campaigners have hit out at a “rubbish” policy aiming to prevent Sheffield City Council making deals with corrupt companies saying it has taken too long to sort out.

A four-year faff with a policy that councillors said is essential to ensure they are buying and selling with ethical companies has again been pushed back to a future meeting.

Councillor Douglas Johnson, City Ward, said after years of Sheffield City Council modifying the policy, it is still not good enough.

“We brought a motion to council in 2014 which was passed with modifications and the Council resolved then that it would take into account those issues. Unfortunately it’s taken such a long time for the officers and the cabinet member to bring that to a policy”, he said.

Concerns arose after a number of large companies were accused of misconduct and human rights abuses including private security firm G4S and others. In 2014 the council had three contracts with G4S worth around £91,000.

At that time Coun Ben Curran, then cabinet member for finance, promised to review the framework for which contracts were awarded.

Over the following years there were more meetings in which councillors and several campaigners raised concerns about the policy being too vague and taking too long to be tightened.

Coun Johnson said: “In the meantime, back in March, the policy itself was signed off by Councillor Blake, and already it was discovered there are further changes that still need to be made. It’s still up in the air and it’s a policy that’s not quite good enough.”

Coun Blake, cabinet member for finance, was contacted for a comment but failed to respond.

At a recent overview and scrutiny management committee meeting it was agreed the policy would be “bumped off” again to a future meeting. Coun Johnson said: “It puts a bit more pressure on the system to do the work they should have done some time in the past four years.”

In a report, the Council said it is "committed to ensuring a high standard of ethical practice across our trading landscape" and outlined some key areas including tax compliance, grave misconduct, living wage and blacklisting which they have been addressing in their policy changes.

Some members of the public attended a recent meeting to raise concerns.

Amy O’Gara, campaigner for No to G4S, said: “Our experience with this has been very difficult and challenging and I hope there are serious lessons to be learned that people who have put their heart and soul into trying to make this city the fairest in the land have been overlooked.

"By chance we discovered the policy had been signed off and by chance we discovered it was coming to scrutiny today.

“As it stands, what Sheffield is saying is the big companies are allowed to build a complex structure and quarantine their dirty dealings while a little company in Sheffield which makes a grave mistake and haven’t got the resources to handle it feel the full weight of punishment."

Another member of the public said: "I came along thinking this would be looked at formally today and have a chance to comment. I'm pleased to see it's coming along but it sounds there are still things to be added."