Avon challenges tendering bias ruling

A challenge by Avon County Council to a ruling that it was guilty of discrimination in its handling of five tenders for waste disposal contracts is now imminent.

In January last year the Appeal Court over-ruled an earlier High Court decision and quashed the council's decision, ruling that unsuccessful waste disposal tenderer Terry Adams had been unfairly treated.

A company set up by the council, Avon Waste Management (AWM), won the contract.

Lord Justice Ralph Gibson, sitting with Lords Justices McCowan and Hobhouse, ruled that Avon unlawfully distorted the statutory tendering process required by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This led to the rejection of the Adams' tender, which quoted a price about half that of AWM.

Avon claimed this was because acceptance of the AWM tender was based on its environmental policy to secure recycling and incineration of waste. The council argued it was entitled to act as it did to achieve environmental policies. Adams challenged this, accusing the council of discrimination in its bid to implement policies.

The Appeal judges said they were satisfied that contract terms and conditions were framed in a way that caused undue discrimination in favour of AWM and that there was no justification for discrimination.

Mr Justice Hobhouse said Avon had failed to regard its obligations under the 1990 Act. These obliged the council to award the contracts pursuant to the tendering process and not on the basis of separately negotiated contracts for which no other contractor had the opportunity to bid on the same basis as AWM.

Now Avon is taking the case to the House of Lords seeking to over-turn the Appeal Court decision.