Plaid’s ‘Buy Local’ campaign which aims to raise levels of local public procurement, giving Welsh companies and Welsh workers more opportunities to benefit from public spending so that and their wages can circulate in the local economy. The latest figures show that only 52% of Welsh public spending goes to companies based in Wales. Value Wales has calculated that every additional 1% increase means 2000 more jobs in Wales. Improving Welsh procurement to reach 75% would mean an increase of 46,000 jobs in Wales. Plaid has rightly called for legislation in procurement best practice to help create almost 50,000 jobs in Wales. Scotland is consulting on legislation to ensure that best practice in some areas becomes common practice across the public sector.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:
“Public sector procurement in Wales has had some great successes in recent years to make sure that our Welsh pound is spent on jobs and skills in Wales.
“For example, 80% of money spent on the Arbed programme for home and energy efficiency improvements goes to companies located in Wales.
“That money means food on the table and a roof over the head for skilled Welsh workers and their families, and more money circulating within the local economy to be spent down the high street at the butchers, the hairdressers and the bakers.
“In contrast, money which goes to firms outside Wales is lost to our local economies – and that’s every one pound in two.
“There are ways of improving this at all levels, and it needn’t cost more.
“For example, professionally trained and specialised procurement staff in local authorities, such as those introduced by Caerphilly Council when Plaid Cymru were in charge, can generate both financial savings for the council and secure local jobs.
“Another good example is where Gwynedd Council agreed that the slate for improving Bangor High Street must come from local quarries, supporting 200 jobs in Penrhyn Quarry.
“However, the figures alone show that we can do better.
“If we can improve our procurement practices to increase from 51% to 75% of Welsh public spend to go to Welsh companies then that could create almost 50,000 jobs in Wales.
“The McClelland Report released last Summer suggested that, if best practice wasn’t being followed, then we should be legislating to make it happen.
“The Party of Wales believes that this legislation should be brought forward to ensure that this becomes common practice, not best practice.
“Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has also called for the EU to simplify and relax their procurement rules to help Welsh businesses.”
For once Wales has been ahead of the curve (even if Labour’s elected representatives in Wales have been dragging their collective feet), as this is something that was recommended to the Welsh Government last summer by the McClelland Report for the Welsh Government. I think that it is perfectly reasonable for the Welsh Government to take action to ensure that a greater percentage of that money can be spent locally in Wales. If you are going to spend public money then you need to work it extra hard and make sure you get real value for money. At local government level our local authorities spend around £4 billion pounds (April 2012) worth of our money buying goods and services. A target of 75% of the public sector spend, being spent here in Wales, is an excellent idea, as it means that around £3 billion pounds of tax-payers money staying in Wales.
Back in July 2010 a survey commissioned by the National Assembly Government reported that almost half of all food and drink bought by schools, hospitals and local authorities in Wales was of Welsh origin, and the amount of locally-produced food bought by the public sector had risen by 65.8% in the last six years. The 2010 Welsh Public Sector Food Purchasing survey revealed that Local authorities had increased their purchases of local food by 90.5% in the previous six years. Key categories included bread, milk, fruit and vegetables, ready meals, soft drinks, dairy products and water.
The NHS (in Wales) purchased 69% of the food and drink products in Wales, when it comes to milk on average, 50.9% of all the milk purchased by Welsh local authorities for schools was locally-produced. When it comes to Welsh purchases in higher education, accounted for 41.3% in 2009, compared with 28.7% in 2003, in the field of further education some, 39.6% of purchases were of Welsh origin, up from a previous figure of 16.8%. The survey reveals that the only organisations to have bought less Welsh food than previously were the MoD and the Welsh Police Forces, which saw a 0.4% decrease in Welsh origin purchases.
The process should build upon Local Sourcing Action Plan’s and should lead to real social, economic and environmental benefits for all our communities by retaining the money spent in the local economy. This is sustainable development as local investment can provide a range of benefits across the whole of Wales benefiting local farmers, local suppliers and producers and local people. This should also be a reduction in food miles, and reduced carbon emissions to help fight climate change. Plaid is right to pledge action to ensure that more of that money remains in local economies, this is a home win for Wales.