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Businesses launch complaint to Cabinet Office about Tower Hamlets council

PUBLISHED: 17:29 20 July 2012 | UPDATED: 11:31 23 July 2012

Tower Hamlets council has been reported to the Cabinet Office after it invited tenders for a new £40m construction project, only to scrap the plans six months later.

Under a new scheme, known as “mystery shopper”, small businesses can complain to the cabinet office if they have grievances about procurement processes.

Several businesses have utilised this scheme after Tower Hamlets council scrapped plans for a £40m project, six months after the closing date for procurement applications had closed, citing a change in market conditions. To make matters worse, the council then confirmed plans to re-tender the deal, forcing interested parties to reapply.

The decision left businesses frustrated about the time and resources they had wasted tendering for the project, with the Cabinet Office confirming to The Advertiser that they had received a complaint about the council’s conduct.

Luke Tozer is a director of Pitman Tozer architects, one of the firms which tendered for the project at a cost of £2,500.

“It’s clearly not good behaviour, because they have wasted their own and the industry’s time,” he said.

“Their excuse was that market conditions had changed since they advertised, but they had not changed in architectural circles.”

Tower Hamlets council estimates that it spends approximately £10m per year on construction-related consultants.

A spokesman said: “The council is in the process of responding to the Cabinet Office over the complaint received through their mystery shopping website about the cancellation of the framework contract. The council will be reviewing its procurement process for large tenders.”

Under the “mystery shopper” scheme the Cabinet Office may make recommmendations as to changes which should be made in order to benefit small businesses. The results of the complaint will be published online in the coming months.

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