SMALL businesses have been penalised in a bid to find a company to run a DIY voucher scheme in South Tyneside, it has been claimed.
South Tyneside Council council has launched a tender process to identify a firm where council tenants can spend vouchers worth up to £200 to spruce up their properties after repair work.
Currently the cash is only available to spend at DIY giant B&Q as part of an exclusive agreement.
Today the council would not reveal who submitted tenders – and it is not known if B&Q is among the companies to throw their hat into the ring.
But today one independent retailer, Walter Metcalfe, of Metcalfe’s Home Decor in Westoe Road, South Shields, claims the rules and regulations preclude his business from entering the race.
For the last four years, Mr Metcalfe has campaigned for the vouchers to be used at any DIY outlet – not only exclusively at B&Q.
Now he has given up his campaign after becoming resigned to defeat.
He said: “I looked at the preliminary form and the rules and regulations for tendering. It said you had to have an annual turnover of something like £10m, which we are far from having, and that I needed public liability insurance.
“Why would I need that for people just coming into shop to buy wallpaper?
“It would appear the council is not interested in small, independent companies becoming involved in this scheme. I have now brought the campaign to an end, I have become disheartened.
“Nothing looks like changing, but we’d still welcome any tenants who need to spend extra above their £200 allowance.”
The Gazette recently received a letter from one reader who went to use his vouchers at B&Q – but wasn’t able to find what he needed.
He visited Metcalfe’s and bought the items there, but had to spend his own money, as the vouchers are not transferable.
Brian Scott, director of housing, finance and business support for South Tyneside Homes, said: “We recently carried out a review of our decoration assistance scheme.
“Following the review we undertook a procurement exercise, and we are evaluating the tenders.”
The successful bidder is expected to be announced before the end of the year.
In the meantime, vouchers are still exchangeable at all B&Q outlets.