Council to agree buying in plants

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A DECISION on whether to place the supply of plants into the hands of a private company can now go ahead.

The move was agreed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and comes despite recommendations from a Scarborough Council scrutiny committee that it be deferred while further investigations were carried out.

Members were told the council was in danger of breaching EU regulations on procurement if it did not formalise buying in plants and shrubs.

The matter had been called in for scrutiny because it was felt that floral displays would suffer and the move would place the future of the council’s Manor Road Nursery under threat.

Cllr Mike Cockerill, the portfolio holder for harbours, land and project management, said it was clear that there were very genuine concerns that displays and tourism would be affected by the move.

But he added he had spoken to councillors from nearby authorities with a similar arrangement and this was not the case.

Dorothy Russell, chairman of the Friends of Manor Road Nursery, asked members how a decision on outsourcing could be taken when so few of the councillors had visited the nursery to see the work carried out there.

But council leader Tom Fox said: “We see the products on the streets but can we look at all the different ways of providing them – that’s what the debate is about now.”

Cllr Bill Chatt asked whether the council should consider continuing growing plants at the “expensive site” or formalise buying them in, adding: “I do appreciate it is an emotive issue but we have got to think can we afford to continue doing things in the same way? We just can’t afford to keep throwing money into that venue.”

The chairman of the scrutiny committee, Cllr Herbert Tindall, stressed that outsourcing plants and the future of the nurseries were two separate issues and linking the two had confused matters.

Head of environmental services Andy Skelton warned the council would need a number of separate framework agreements and added that he initially had reservations on the “just in time” approach of the proposed agreement.

It was revealed last month that proposals had been put forward for the council to enter into a four-year agreement with York-based Aldby Field Nurseries Ltd, worth up to £500,000.

Two councillors – Peter Popple and Steve Bairstow – had called for the matter to be scrutinised because they did not agree the move would be financially beneficial to the authority.