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Bolton framework the first hit

A deal that would have seen Bolton Council slash the number of contractors it works with from 60 to just four has become one of the first contracts to fall foul of the OFT investigation.

The council had been due to announce early next month which firms it had selected to join a framework the select list of preferred contractors it had previously used to deliver its projects.

But the process has been delayed because firms that had been tipped to win places, including local outfit G&J -Seddon, were included in the list of 112 named by the OFT.

Steve Arnfield, director of corporate resources with the council, said: “The OFT announcement has potential impact on a decision taken by the executive member corporate resources in relation to the framework contracts.

“Therefore council officers will be recommending to the executive member that he should not proceed with the awarding of the framework contracts until such time as sufficient information has been obtained regarding the investigations by the OFT.”

The council’s move comes after the OFT said it was up to individual clients to decide how to respond to the naming of the firms involved in the investigation. It recommended that they take legal advice before any action.

The framework had already caused controversy in Bolton amid claims that it would shut out local firms which relied on council work to stay in business.

Council Conservative group leader John Walsh has called for the award of the contract to be reviewed at a scrutiny meeting after the local elections on 1 May.

He said: “I want to ensure that all councillors are advised and aware of the consequences and I am hoping that, at this meeting, common sense will prevail.

“This will have a huge economic impact, so I hope we can look at all the options and recognise the importance of small business in our town.”

The council has an approved contractor list of around 800 firms, about 60 of which it uses on a regular basis.

Mr Walsh said some businesses rely on council contracts for as much as 70 per cent of their workloads.