A HUDDERSFIELD businessman has attacked a Government department for awarding a £34m-plus clothing contract to a firm in China.
Rian Taylor, a director of textile merchant Dugdale Brothers & Co, with offices in the town centre, said the decision by the Ministry of Justice dealt “a body blow” to UK manufacturing.
Mr Taylor said the seven-year contract had gone to a “taxpayer-funded” competitor who was able to undercut UK companies on price.
But he said: “The award of this contract will be a real body blow to a series of UK-registered, UK tax paying uniform companies who have built business models supplying the public services over decades.
“This will cost us jobs, tax revenues and employment benefits. The savings made will undoubtedly be outweighed by the true full cost.”
The contract awarded by the Ministry of Justice is for clothing and footwear, including coats, skirts, trousers, pullovers, cardigans, sweatshirts, T-shirts and anti-slip shoes.
The contract award notice posted on the internet shows the contract was made on behalf of government bodies including the UK Border Agency, the Prison Service, the Metropolitan Police and private sector security firms Serco, G4S and Sodexo Justice Services.
The contract was awarded to Jiangsu Sunshine Dongsheng I/E Co Ltd, based at Nanjing in China’s Jiangsu Province.
The notice said Sunshine has been chosen from three bidders after submitting “the most economically advantageous tender” in terms of contract specification, technical requirements and price.
But Mr Taylor said: “The government isn’t showing a lot of commitment to British industry.
“Other countries like the USA, France and Germany argue that you should get goods and services ‘home grown’ if you can. How many businesses will go bust because of this? They haven’t thought it through.”
Mr Taylor estimated that awarding the contract to UK suppliers could have benefited the West Yorkshire textile trade to the tune of £14m.
And he added: “If the government continues to behave in this manner, the mills where I source my cloth will close and more of the industry will move offshore.”
Mr Taylor called for help to make UK firms more competitive, saying: “British manufacturing cannot compete with offshore prices and I feel there should be incentives for companies to award contracts within the UK.
“It is imperative that UK manufacturing is promoted and supported by the government. This does not set a good example and rather contradicts what the government has been pushing for.
“We are a long way from recovering from this recession and we need to look at every avenue possible to ensure that opportunities are not missed.”
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “The decision to re-award the contract for making Prison Service uniforms to Sunshine was awarded after a fair and open competitive process.
“Their bid represented the best value for taxpayers and offered a superior quality of uniform.
“We have visited the Sunshine facilities to confirm they meet ethical standards and will continue to monitor these to ensure the standards are maintained”.