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Local jobs, common sense and practicality lose out in Council contract.

No jobs for local manufacturers as street furniture contract goes to OMOS, a company in Naas with French connections!

Local jobs, common sense and practicality lose out in Council contract.
No jobs for local manufacturers as street furniture contract goes to OMOS, a Naas company with French connections!

By Tom Roche

14th July, 2014.

During 2001, I had the privilege of being part of a EU-wide editorial team representing 12 countries that met regularly in London and Brussels to develop and produce a brochure to help local authorities develop and implement a responsible timber procurement policy for all building works under their remit. The publication was sent to all local authorities across the EU including Ireland.

In our opening remarks we stated:

‘Local Authorities construct, operate and maintain economic, social and environmental infrastructure, oversee planning processes and establish local environmental policies and regulations. They also assist in implementing national and regional environmental policies. They are very close to the people and play a vital role in educating and mobilising the public and responding to community concerns.

Therefore, Local Authorities – large or small – are important players for putting sustainable development into practice. They are important consumers with public procurement policies as a powerful tool for promoting the use of environmentally and socially responsible products and practices.

Local Authorities’ behaviour is likely to have an important influence on people and they should take every opportunity to set a good example to the public.’ (Extract from: Local Authorities can make a difference! The Role of Local Authorities in Promoting Responsible Forest Management.) (You can download this document below)

Hardly a day goes by that we do not read or hear statements from government and opposition parties on what they are doing or plan to do to stimulate economic recovery and jobs and I refer to the Government’s ‘ACTION PLAN FOR JOBS-2012:Supporting Economic Recovery and Jobs - Locally. On page 22 of the above mentioned document it states:
‘4.8.2. Local Procurement - Emphasis has been placed on the creation and support of local jobs through greater access by SMEs to procurement opportunities, including improving the opportunities for local suppliers to supply services to larger purchasers in a local authority area.(You can download this document below)


Readers of the Tullamore Tribune may have seen the very nice tree planters that adorn the main street of the town from the Kilbeggan Bridge to the intersection at Flaherty’s Insurance. This was a joint initiative of Tullamore Chamber of Commerce and the Town Council. The purpose of the tree planters is to beautify the street and they succeed in doing that extremely well and the Council and Chamber of Commerce have to be congratulated for their initiative.

However, we have to be concerned at the failure of the local authority to invite local businesses to submit quotes in an effort to stimulate jobs locally. Not as much as one of the SME’s with the capabilities to produce the tree planters that I contacted personally in Co Offaly were asked to bid on the contract and all of them are paying rates payers. We must also raise alarm over the failure of Tullamore Chamber of Commerce not insisting that the contract - which was in the region of €20,000 - should be offered to Offaly SMEs.

From my own past experience as a self-employed carpenter and furniture-maker running a small-medium enterprise (SME) in a rented premises in The Tanyard, Tullamore, for a number of years, a contract such as this from your local authority was manna from heaven-it was sure work with guaranteed payment. Getting a small/medium contract from your local authority provided a certain amount of security and could often mean the difference between paying either ‘Billy or Jack’ or the whole team.

So in this day and age with all the talk about local job creation we must ask the question why was no SME in Offaly asked to manufacture the tree planters? Why was non-certified West-African iroko used instead of Irish-grown timber which is readily available from a number of sawmills in the county? Incidentally, the use of West-African iroko in this instance goes contrary to Offaly Co Council’s timber procurement policy which, at the time, received cross-party support and states:

Offaly County Council are delighted to be the first local authority in Ireland to have formally adopted a timber purchasing policy. This policy was adapted by Offaly County Council in April 2001 and is underpinned by the principle that timber and wood products sourced by the Council will as soon as is practicable, be independently certified, preferably by a certifier accredited by The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or equivalent, as coming from well managed sustainable sources. We believe that by promoting this policy, where practicable, in our public works contracts we are leading by example in the sustainable development of forests both home and abroad.”
Mr. Niall Sweeney, Offaly County Manager (retired)

The last County Manager also stated:
A fundamental principle of Irish Aid is that sustainable development is only possible when adequate attention is paid to environmental issues. Therefore, systematic attention is given to environmental questions at all stages of project implementation, including project identification, appraisal, review and evaluation. Implicit in this is the taking into account of issues regarding forestry, forestation and deforestation.”
Mr. Pat Gallagher- (past Offaly County Manager)

A phone call to the company that supplied the 14 tree planters informed me that each planter cost €1385 each, excluding VAT and shipping costs and the local landscape gardeners costs. A number of local SMEs told me they would have produced a much sturdier container made from local timber for a considerably lower sum- I believe if I were still in business I would have also. It is my firm belief that the 14 tree planters installed are design-wise un-fit for purpose and are more appropriate to a pedestrianised zone in a shopping centre instead of a busy street where cars and vans will inevitably damage them - as has happened already.

It is imperative that our newly elected councillors and the Chamber of Commerce get to grips with this issue and ensure that from here on that our local authority will invite local firms to bid on local contracts and put an end once and for all to the lip service that has been so glaring in Irish politics for as long as I can remember. It’s time to put common sense, practicality and local jobs on the political, economic and sustainability agendas and make a real difference to people’s lives.

ENDS.
 

Photo © Just Forests: One of the 14 tree holders costing €1350 each is damaged. It is my firm belief that the 14 tree planters installed are design-wise unfit for purpose and are more appropriate to a pedestrianised zone in a shopping centre instead of a busy street where cars and vans will inevitably damage them - as has happened already.

Please see historical links related to this matter

Offaly Co Council becomes the first local authority to adopt a timber policy

Protest outside Aras an Chontae as Offaly Co Council fails to put timber policy in to practice

Offaly Co Council fails to impliment it's own timber policy once again -Roche is arrested

Local Authorities must lead by example-Deputy Sean Fleming (FF)

Do You Deal In Wood-The EU Timber Regulation

 

State of the World's Forests 2014

Enhancing the socioeconomic benefits from forests

Across the world, forests, trees on farms, and agroforestry systems play a crucial role in the livelihoods of rural people by providing employment, energy, nutritious foods and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services. They have tremendous potential to contribute to sustainable development and to a greener economy. Yet, clear evidence of this has been lacking. This evidence is critical to inform policies on forest management and use, and to ensure that the benefits from forests are recognized in the post-2015 development agenda, not only with respect to the environment, but also for their contributions to broader social issues.

This edition of State of the World’s Forests addresses this knowledge gap by systematically gathering and analysing available data on forests’ contributions to people’s livelihoods, food, health, shelter and energy needs. Crucially, the report also suggests how information might be improved and policies adjusted, so that the socioeconomic benefits from forests can be enhanced in the future. See 2014 report below
 

A responsible timber procurement policy guideline for local authorities
application/pdfLocal Authorities Brochure.pdf (2.05 MB)
Irish Government Action PLAN for Jobs 2012- Supporting Economic Recovery and Jobs - Locally
application/pdfLocal Jobs.pdf (0.98 MB)
State of the World's Forests 2014: This edition of State of the World's Forests addresses enhancing the socio-economic benefits from forests by systematically gathering and analyzing available data on forests' contributions to people's livelihoods, food, health, shelter and energy needs. Crucially, the report also suggests how information might be improved and policies adjusted, so that the socio-economic benefits from forests can be enhanced in the future.
application/pdfa-i3710e.pdf (1.84 MB)
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