Will the European Union let PCCs Buy British?

Dr Lee Rotherham of Taxpayers Alliance fame has applied to be the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Lincolnshire – see this very informative campaign website. He gives his perspective here on the St. George’s Day call from Sussex Labour PCC hopeful Paul Richards for PCCs to ‘Buy British’.

This is the relevant thing: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32004L0018:EN:NOT (note how it’s been massively rewritten over time).

My take on the long and the short of it is that a PCC might get away now and again with deliberately buying maybe four or five range rovers, or something built in Sunderland, provided he didn’t shout about it. If he buys a huge fleet, even if rolled out over his tenure, he crosses a threshold meaning he would have to put the contract out for tender. That threshold I understand is about £4m, though if it comes with a service contract he’d get caught if that were around £156k.

That’s quite a sum, and a PCC might think he could get away with trying his luck applying it broadly. After all, it’s reportedly done in certain other countries. HOWEVER, such a policy repeatedly applied sub-threshold by someone who has been openly making declarations of this sort invites complaints by foreign companies, and invitations for the Commission (and Vince Cable) to investigate, because even in these cases the basic principles of the public sector not buying national first are meant to apply even if the requirement to fully tender across the EU is not.

So in brief, a PCC in many Forces might get away with such a policy if he didn’t tell anyone about it. This could give him a warm fuzzy glow inside, but no electoral brownie points. The down side if he makes a point about doing it is the risk of questions about who is paying for the ensuing law suit, and any argument over value for money (if as you say a cheaper and more suitable foreign product does happen to be available, ie not a Trabant).

That all in turn shows

(i) a policy such as the one declared is a bear trap

(ii) how ‘local’ politics can quickly become national politics

(iii) how non-policing issues could end up entering the debate

(iv) EU policy will unfortunately affect PCCs the same as it does everyone else – best start swotting up on your ‘Justice & Home Affairs’ material.


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