By Christina Golding
TREATING staff well could win contract caterers business under new laws going through Parliament.
The Local Authority Tenders Bill, which has just passed the crucial second reading, will compel councils that hand out contracts to consider whether those contractors have treated staff decently. Until now, the least expensive bidder has been all but certain to get the business.
The passing of the second reading of the private member's bill, which was proposed by Oona King, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, means that the new legislation has been accepted in principle.
The bill will now be discussed in committee and may be amended before its third hearing. It could become law by the summer.
John Davis, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers' Association, welcomed the proposal. He said: "This could be very helpful when tenders are evaluated, as [companies] will have to demonstrate they are good employers. There are several companies that treat their workforces in an appalling way."
The bill could also help secure the future of Best Value, which is to be tested from April with 40 local authorities. Best Value is set to replace compulsory competitive tendering (CCT), under which councils must choose the lowest bid.
Since December, CCT rules have been relaxed for school meals caterers so that quality can also be taken into account, but they still apply in other public sector areas such as civic offices and social security buildings.