English firm accused of 'pinching' contract [Western Mail (Wales)]
(Western Mail (Wales) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ADECISION by the Welsh Government to award a Pounds 500,000 advertising contract linked to a business advice programme to a company based in England has been greeted with fury.
Despite a number of Welsh firms bidding for the work, commissioned by Economy Minister Edwina Hart's department, the contract to spread the word about an advice programme for business start-ups in Wales was won by SBW Advertising, whose headquarters is in Bristol.
A source in the Welsh marketing industry said: "There are plenty of companies in Wales that could have done this work and it's a disgrace that it's gone to a business based outside the country. SBW have recently opened an office in Cardiff, but the fact of the matter is that this is a Bristolbased company pinching work for the Welsh Government that could and should have been done by a Welsh firm."
The source, who fears their company could be victimised if they were identified, added: "It's a national embarrassment that a Welsh Government initiative at the heart of its economic policy should go to an English firm."
SBW's managing and sole director Simon Wright said: "We have three people employed in our Cardiff office and that's likely to rise to five later in the year.
"I'm not Welsh - I'm from Staffordshire - but our creative director is Welsh.
"Everyone knows that under EU rules contracts awarded by public bodies have to be openly advertised and fairly awarded and that preferential treatment for local companies is banned.
"We put in for lots of contracts and our success rate is 15% to 20%. You win some and you lose some. Part of the Welsh Government's approach is that Wales is open for business, and that surely entails welcoming companies from outside Wales. There are also many Welsh firms that win contracts in England."
A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said: "SBW Advertising was awarded the contract following a formal tender process among all suppliers on the Welsh Government's All Wales Media Framework. The entire process was open, fair and transparent in accordance with the European Union Procurement Regulations as well as being compliant with the principles of our Welsh Public Procurement Policy."
Meanwhile, the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) in Cardiff Bay, which is not governed by EU procurement rules because it is a company limited by guarantee and outside the public sector, has awarded a PR and communications contract covering its 10th anniversary events later this year to London-based agency Four Communications.
Bet Davies, head of PR at the WMC, said: "We have a very strong in-house PR team and as a rule do all our PR inhouse. But on this one particular occasion, we decided we need an external PR team with the specialist ability to raise our profile with the Londonbased arts media.
"In 2004, when we opened, a lot of arts journalists came to the centre and predicted we would close within a year. That hasn't happened, and we're a great success story. But it's still not easy to get them to come here. It's important to get the likes of [BBC arts editor] Will Gompertz interested in our 10th anniversary celebrations, and we need specialist help with that.
"I'm the biggest supporter of giving contracts to Welsh firms and would have loved to award this contract to a Welsh firm.
"We have a procurement policy aimed at giving as much work as possible to Welsh businesses, and in fact 80% of the produce in our restaurant comes from Wales.
"But unfortunately there isn't a Welsh company with the specialist skills and contacts in the London arts world we needed for this particular role."
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