Dublin City Council has joined the other three Dublin local authorities in a tender for the supply of library books.
The 2012 tender for library book supply from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council awarded €595,000 of the total €800,000 to a UK multinational with a group turnover of £1.8 billion. The award criteria guaranteed 65% of the marks to the lowest price
Up to now, library supply was spread among a number of suppliers and bookshops through smaller contracts. The bundling of the contracts together into this larger tender, effectively elimates these Irish suppliers from the process as the successful applicant must prove they have previously handled a contract of this size. You might say that this tender process could in effect, 'gift' the contract to one of two UK based wholesale library suppliers.
It should be noted that procurement followed the same route in th UK some years ago resulting in the closure of many businesses and now the UK lacks competition.
The cost saving (reletively small at that) argument is an easy one to win. It's the quickest soundbite for media to grab however the bigger picture shows considerable damage will be done to the publishing industry.
The immediate effect of a move to UK supply will be the closure and job losses in Irish library supply businesses. The next in line will be publishing employees and publishers' agencies in Ireland. Irish indigenous publishing will then see their sales into Irish libraries decrease due to the removal of local interaction with libraries.
To illustrate this, an Irish publisher I represent used to supply Northern Ireland Libraries through a Belfast based supplier. Due to the unsustainable discounts demanded by libraries, this supplier closed last year. The same Irish publisher now does releatively little business with the UK supplier that subseqently won the contract.
Local Govenment procurement is required to consider local socio-economic factors when making decisions but I fear that the civil servants responsible are disconnected from the effect of many of their decisions. Neither are they sensitive to the fact that in order for the economy to succeed, we all need to succeed.
So, is it really down to the 'them and us' argument between public and private sector?