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Council issues tenders despite boycott threat

BIRMINGHAM City Council is to go out to tender for 100 million- worth of housing maintenance work, amid fears that the job might be boycotted by contractors.

Firms say that they are being faced with unfair competition because of the TUPE regulations, which they believe give an advantage to in-house operators. To date, every housing maintenance job put out to tender by Birmingham has been taken by the councils own housing department.

The council put out work to tender in all twelve of its housing areas in 1992. This contract was taken by its own housing department before it was ruled illegal by the government, as the package was too large.

Since then the work has been divided into three phases but the housing department has also taken the first two 100 million packages.

Martin Prince, of the National Federation of Builders, reckons that the DLO (Direct Labour Organisation) was successful in taking the last phase because several leading contractors boycotted it on account of TUPE.

TUPE, which means that contractors have to either take on existing council staff or come to an arrangement to pay them off, gives in-house agencies an unfair advantage, says Mr Prince.

The claim that firms are not bidding for this type of work appears to be backed up by an examination of jobs which have recently been awarded.

East Staffordshire District Council has just awarded a 5 million, three-year housing maintenance job to Trentforce, its own DLO, which was the only bidder.

Peterborough City Council, which has just awarded four maintenance jobs (together worth around 2 million a year) to its own DLO, only attracted two bidders for each contract.

And Mansfield also only attracted two bidders for similar work in four contract areas. This job was also taken by the DLO.

However TUPE need not be a problem. Allan Black of the GMB admits: There have been many legal changes affecting the implementation of TUPE, but if contractors spend the time coming to grips with the legislation they will probably find it not so onerous as they first thought.