Richmond Park News: 13 January 2023
On Wednesday, I participated in a debate on the Procurement Bill, which reforms existing public procurement rules derived largely from the EU. Public procurement accounts for around 1/3 of all public spending. It is essential that we have a transparent, effective procurement system with sufficient safeguards in place to ensure value for money for the taxpayer, especially at a time of straitened public spending.
I welcome aspects of the Bill that will speed up and simply the procurement process and create greater opportunities for SMEs. However, this legislation fails to ban so-called ‘VIP lanes’. Furthermore, it is not aligned to our climate and environment goals, and does not give sufficient regard to social value.
The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, found that the bypassing of the usual procurement rules via VIP lanes during the pandemic saw £3.8 billion of taxpayers’ money handed over to 51 suppliers of PPE, many closely tied to Conservative Ministers and their friends. The Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to ban VIP lanes in the Lords, but this was voted down by the Conservatives. We will be looking to re-table this amendment in the Commons.
You can view a clip of my speech discussing VIP lanes here, or read a full transcript of the debate and my contribution here.
ENERGY SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES
The Government has announced that the current energy support package for businesses and other non-domestic consumers will be significantly reduced from 1 April 2023 onwards. The scheme will change from a price cap to a discount on wholesale rates. This will reduce support by around 95% for a typical pub and around 85% for other small businesses. It has been reported that the average small business will receive just £50 in support over the next year. For full details of this new package please click here.
Like many business groups, I am very concerned that this reduction will cause thousands of firms to go under. After months of declining business conditions and soaring running costs, this is a terrible time for the Government to slash support. I have written a letter to the Business Secretary, alongside all of my Liberal Democrat colleagues, to raise our concerns. You can view this letter here.
There is also an issue with commercial energy suppliers failing to pass down wholesale price reductions to consumers. I am pleased that the Government has instructed Ofgem to look into this.
If you are a business-owner or publican in Richmond Park, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office for clarification of the support offered by the Government.
UPDATE FOR HOUSEHOLDS ON HEAT NETWORKS
Households belonging to heat networks and those with other forms of communal energy provision receive support through the business scheme. This cost saving is then passed down from the managing organisation to the consumer.