Peter Hough

Peter Hough
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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

We need to be smart - and look after the pennies

At last month's Area Committee Meeting members agreed to fund 'smartwater' technology from our devolved budget for streets that were targets for burglars. The police had done a deal with the manufacturers to supply the kits at a reduced price.

Smartwater is an invisible liquid with a unique code for each kit that is painted on property, so stolen goods can be linked to a particular address. It can also transfer itself to thieves so they can be forensically connected to the crime.

The police later asked for further funding to place signs on lamp posts similar to those produced for the Neighbourhood Watch,  to act as a deterrent.

The signs cost £20 each - but the Council's contractor wanted £35 to attach each one to a lamp post! As they were made from polypropylene, I was told all they required were two plastic ties. I kicked up a fuss, and it turns out the quote included unsuitable metal bands.

Further negotiation between the Council and the contractor brought the price down to £20 per sign. This saved the council a few hundred pounds - which might not sound a huge amount in the scale of things - but that's only one example of how money can be saved - or rather not spent needlessly in the first place. If you look after the pennies, then the pounds will look after themselves.

The council needs to do what every householder already practices - not tie itself to one company - and ring around for the best prices when a quote seems too high.

In the past councils have been taken advantage of by contractors who believed they were bottomless money pits. Those times are gone, and council officials need to drive a harder bargain in future negotiations.

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