Raising concerns around TTIP
As a long-serving Green Party councillor on North Somerset Council, I was alerted by local trade unions to the potential effects of TTIP (the trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US) on local authority commissioning.
Concerns around TTIP
While services directly provided by local authorities or the NHS are exempt, more and more public services are 'outsourced' or privatised. If contracts such as waste collection and recycling, community care, school meals, highways maintenance, construction, and IT services, were subject to proposed TTIP regulations, local authorities could be prevented from commissioning services related to safeguarding of the environment, encouraging local businesses, and ethical employment standards.
In other words, prevented from acting in the best interests of their communities. Decisions taken by democratically elected local authorities could be overturned by multinational corporations under the proposed Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
Raising the motion
Opposition group leaders don't often succeed in getting motions passed at Council, so my motion needed to be carefully worded. There was no chance of getting the large Conservative majority to pass a motion against TTIP as such. I was very pleased that, following the debate, they were prepared to support an expression of concern that there has been no impact assessment on the potential detrimental effects on local decision making.
The motion also referred to the importance of the Council's ability to source supplies and employment locally, to strengthen local economies, and to meet local needs in the best interest of its communities without interference from TTIP mechanisms.
Response to the motion
As a result of the motion, a letter was sent by the Council to the Secretary of State as well to local MPs and MEPs. The responses varied, as expected. Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato of Stroud Meeting wrote that she was delighted to receive the motion and outlined her further concerns about TTIP.
The response from the Department of Business, Innovation and Social skills was interesting. While asserting the potential benefits of TTIP, it acknowledged the concerns and asserted that the government supports greater transparency in the EU-US negotiations. The government expects to safeguard against any lowering of regulatory standards and protection of sustainable development principles, but the letter falls short of any such guarantees.