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The truths they don't want you to read....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Handbags at dawn....

As the politicians argue over who did what in Barra, and who didn't do what, MacIain closes their quarry and lays off 8 employees.

Whilst the name calling might be entertaining, it is the absence of anything substantive that is the problem.

Our sitting MSP might believe that letters to the Minister is a substitute for action, but unless he places these letters - and their responses - into the public domain, the impression of doing exactly what he is told by his political masters will continue.

Can either Labour or SNP come up with any practical solutions to the economic issues that are facing the islands?


Anonymous said...

With elections looming, I would have thought they would have done so by now - if they could.

Hairy McLairy said...

I see one of the reasons for the closure is the lack of construction work. And yet the Council has just let a £35 squillion schools construction project to folk from outside the islands.

I realise that EU procurement rules preclude letting this kind of project locally, but FFS we have professionals in the White House letting contracts who seem to have NO IDEA AT ALL what the folk in Economic Development down the hall are doing.

Let me explain this carefully (not that I suppose they read this).

Whenever the Council plans to buy anything, anything at all from accountancy services to bakery products to carpenters to - well, you get my drift - A to Z - someone should sit down with the Economic Development folk who are rather pleasant and reasonably good.

They can then advise on the nature of this industry in the islands, and how the contract might be structured to help local firms compete. Sometimes this will mean dividing the contract into smaller portions, sometimes it will mean staggering the work over a longer period of time.

As I've commented on here before, local government is obsessed with partnerships as a way of enabling small business to compete. They simply don't understand that most small business owners would rather eat their grandmothers than 'partner' with their mortal rivals.

The Council also need to hold 'Masterclasses' on how to fill in a tender. These documents are frequently so time-consuming that they require a Master's degree to understand and complete, and they are massively time-consuming for small firms.

Finally, the Council needs to resurrect some kind of placement scheme for their mid-level to senior staff, as part of their professional development, to spend a week or so attached to a local small business to help them understand what it's like to work just one lost contract away from bankruptcy, or just one week from having to lay off your entire staff.

I waive my fee for this piece of consultancy. No doubt the Council will commission KPMG to give them exactly the same advice for £1,500 a day.

Anonymous said...

"They can then advise on the nature of this industry in the islands, and how the contract might be structured to help local firms compete. Sometimes this will mean dividing the contract into smaller portions, sometimes it will mean staggering the work over a longer period of time."
You just don't listen do you?
The new build 4 School contract was constraint by the SG to 2 supplier max. 1 to deliver the school build in 2 years max the 2nd to deliver the 30 year maintenance program.
That is why local firms could not get split pockets of work or all schools over a 4-5 year span.

Hairy McLairy said...

Anonymous 7.28 - you think that all the money the Council spends is on schools?

They spend money on a thousand other things; many, many of which go to the mainland when they could reasonably be won locally with a little thought and preparation, structuring the contract for local firms.

What do I mean? I mean cleaning, accounting, management consultancy, parts supply to Council garages, IT work, grounds maintenance, computer parts, etc. etc and a million other things I'm not aware of.

As for the schools project - I and many other islanders have no interest in what 'SG constraints' dictate. Why wasn't the Council refusing to do the project unless it was split over a number of years? Why wasn't the MP and MSP shouting this from the rooftops? Sounds to me like a cop-out and rollover job, where everyone shrugs their shoulders, weeps a few crocodile tears for the fate of the folk laid off from the construction business and moves to the next item on the agenda.

And for the record - I'm not in the construction business or anything related to it. I run a local business that has nothing to do with education or building. But I still think it's a damn shame that so much money has gone elsewhere when it could have been used to build up local firms.

Anonymous said...

I think the awarding of these schools contracts to this Irish company is an absolute disgrace.
However when you look at the very few large scale contracts being awarded in Scotland in recent Months they have all been awarded to Irish contractors. In the press yesterday a £100 Million contract at Douneray is likely to go to an Irish Contractor.
These contractors will come and they will go but who will be left to carry out all the small jobs that you rely on a local to do, because at the end of the day there will not be any local building contractors around to do them

Anonymous said...

Doing what he is told, exactly.
What did he achieve from his visits to Brussels and get to gethers with ministers, Sweet FA, but to instigate an Impact Assesment that is a standard proceedure of a marine SAC.

Anonymous said...

While I can - partially - see the point of view of people saying the contracts should be 'tilted' towards local organisations in how they are written, can't help feeling there's an element of protectionism and the 'local jobs for local people' mentality.

This works both ways. Part of why, for example, there are EU regulations in this area is so that a company in the Outer Hebrides can, on a level playing field, tender for contracts *outside* of the Outer Hebrides. Which is, quite obviously, a good thing.

MBA man said...

Hairy McLairy is quite right.
It is not a question of local jobs for local people, but if you are in an area where the largest construction company has five employees they are not going to be physically able to tender for a job that is too big. As Hairy quotes "Sometimes this will mean dividing the contract into smaller portions, sometimes it will mean staggering the work over a longer period of time."

Is this so difficult to understand?

Surely the council must have policies (ha ha) designed to allow small organisations to actually quote for work. Then the requirement of the outside contractor for accommodation and ferry costs for their team will at least give local companies a fighting chance of winning the tender on a completely level playing field.

I am not suggesting skewing in favour of local companies (although that would be a very laudable economic development objective) but you simply cannot expect the football teams in Southend and Benbecula to play in the premier league. They simply could not accommodate the away support at their grounds.

The council bus contracts are one of the few examples of genuinely local tendering, resulting (generally)in small local companies getting the contracts. But just about everything else, from school meals to grass-cutting, is tendered on a council-wide basis which automatically excludes any island business.

Hairy McLairy is right- those letting the contracts seem to have no knowledge at all of what the folk in economic development are doing. And they seem to be doing their level best to undermine them.

Just ask them how much work would be required to get a new business employing eight people to open or relocate in Uist. But by implicily blocking local tenders they are simply closing down local businesses and undoing all the work of the economic development dept. at a stroke.

Anonymous said...

It may be handbags and dawn for you Angus while you sit in your office in Stornoway. But if your livelihood depended on it, would be a matter of greater import. A complete disgrace how our MSP and his SNP Executive has let Barra down. He now writes on Hebrides News about all the letters meetings etc he’s had on the issue – what’s he achieved? Nothing. Clearly he’s a heavy weight politician whose lobbying is taken seriously..... Incidentally, I agree with you – he should now publish all the letters and responses he’s supposed to have sent and received. And as for the fellow along the road who lives in Westminster Abbey( as local nickname for the new house) just don’t go there......