Protect Net Zero from shoddy procurement practices

by Good Law Project

Protect Net Zero from shoddy procurement practices

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
Case Owner
Good Law Project's mission is to achieve change through the law. We uphold democracy, protect the environment, and ensure no one is left behind.
Funded
on 18th August 2022
£56,142
pledged of £60,000 stretch target from 2,525 pledges
Good Law Project
Case Owner
Good Law Project's mission is to achieve change through the law. We uphold democracy, protect the environment, and ensure no one is left behind.

Latest: Oct. 28, 2022

Transparency has prevailed this time

You may recall the tiny and obscure company Place Group, which was awarded an eye-watering £70bn framework agreement seemingly to help with the country’s Net Zero aspirations.

Place Group,…

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We won’t let the drive for Net Zero, one of the most important challenges facing the UK today, become another example of secretive closed-door procurement practices. 

That’s why we’ve launched new judicial review proceedings against the East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) for their decision to, we believe, unlawfully award a £70 billion ‘Everything Net Zero’ Framework Agreement to the Place Group, a company with scant emissions reduction expertise. 

Based on what we know so far, this agreement offers the Place Group a way of controlling how the entire public sector, from the NHS to local government offices, will award contracts even loosely connected to ‘climate’ issues, without having to comply with the usual public procurement rules.

This is a lot of power and responsibility for a tiny firm with just two members of staff that’s so small Companies House lists it as a ‘micro-company’. £70 billion is equivalent to almost the entire annual Department for Education budget.

Their decision raises far more questions than a well-run framework agreement process should.

Why was E2BN, a ‘regional broadband consortium’, allowed to write such a poor example of a framework agreement and to make a decision that could have such a far-reaching impact on the UK’s climate response? What is the extent of the pre-existing relationship between E2BN and the Place Group?

On the face of it, E2BN’s decisions and conduct in respect of the Everything Net Zero Framework appears to be in breach of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. They seem to have created a mechanism through which billions in public contracts can be awarded by the Place Group to unspecified suppliers without open, transparent and fair competition.

E2BN have so far refused to properly engage with our questions. As a result, we have now begun legal proceedings. But perhaps there is a reasonable explanation, which is why we’ve asked the Court to give E2BN more time to provide us with proper answers.

If you are able to, please consider donating to our fight for transparency. The climate crisis is too important to be left to shoddy procurement. 


We are publishing our Statement of Facts and Grounds in full here

Details: Good Law Project has instructed Good Law Practice and Joseph Barrett of 11KBW in this case.

Ten percent of the sums raised will go to Good Law Project so that we can continue to use the law for a better world. It is our policy to only raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. If for some reason we don’t spend all the money raised on this case, for instance if E2BN backs down or we win, the donations will go towards supporting other litigation we bring. 

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Update 2

Good Law Project

Oct. 28, 2022

Transparency has prevailed this time

You may recall the tiny and obscure company Place Group, which was awarded an eye-watering £70bn framework agreement seemingly to help with the country’s Net Zero aspirations.

Place Group, a two-employee company based in Cornwall, was offered the contract by the equally unheard of firm East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) – a move which raised more questions than any fair process should.

Good Law Project filed a judicial review in August as we believe the award of the contract was unlawful. We demanded E2BN be transparent about the deal, and fill in the gaps left behind. 

In response to our legal action, E2BN has now pulled the billion-pound framework agreement with Place Group, citing “commercial expediency” in the face of a potential trial.

Why was E2Bn allowed to write such a poor framework agreement and hand it to Place Group – a company whose focus is in education, with seemingly little experience in reducing emissions?

How is it Place Group ended up being the only business to submit a tender for the right to administer the framework? 

On the face of it, E2BN appeared to have created a convenient situation in which Place Group were given oversight over contracts worth as much as half the size of the NHS’s annual allowance, and was able to award contracts loosely based on climate issues to unspecified suppliers without the proper open, transparent or fair competition.

It stressed to us it does not have any interests tied to the Penzance company. 

Framework agreements set out terms under which a public body may purchase goods or services without further open tender. When contracts are awarded through the agreement, the usual rules about open advertisement and competition do not apply.

This ’Everything Net Zero’ agreement would have allowed Place Group the opportunity to control how projects aimed at reducing the country’s carbon emissions were tendered from the entire public sector – from local government offices to the NHS.

The figures were huge and the rules were loose – practically open-ended in the kinds of services that might be bought under it.

We are adamant the drive for Net Zero, one of the most important challenges the country is facing, will not serve as a platform for more shady, closed-door procurements. 

We are now agreeing with the other side how the costs of the litigation should be borne – but are delighted that transparency has prevailed this time.

Update 1

Good Law Project

Oct. 3, 2022

We’ve updated our case

Good Law Project launched this judicial review to question how it could possibly be right that a tiny company with just two staff seems to have contemplated NetZero projects worth as much as £70bn. 

We tried to engage with the East of England Broadband Network (E2BN), the organisation which handed out the mammoth ‘Everything Net Zero’ framework agreement. But they failed to give a substantive response and we were forced to begin legal action in order to meet the strict deadline for challenging procurement decisions. 

We agreed with E2BN to pause the progress of the case so that they had an opportunity to explain themselves. Unfortunately, we still don’t have the full story. E2BN have refused to respond to the concerns we raised and so we are now pressing ahead and have filed our judicial review.

You can read the judicial review bundle here, which includes the Amended Summary of Facts and Grounds (setting out our legal case) and the correspondence between Good Law Project and E2BN. 

Thank you for your support. 

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