Last week, Monmouthshire councillors debated a motion my Conservative team brought forward to try to overturn the recent awarding of a milk contract to a company based over 100 miles away in Pembrokeshire.

 We have uncovered the original Invitation to Tender documents setting out the criteria for the updated milk contract and also the full damning food hygiene inspection report into Totally Welsh’s distribution centre, undertaken on 21st September 2023.

 Inspectors concluded that improvements were necessary in every category including cleanliness, hygienic food handling and management of food safety. 

Major refurbishment was taking place at the premises at the time, but was still being used to receive, store and deliver food.  There had been ‘no thought as to how to protect food during the ongoing works’.  Produce was ‘being stored in the middle of the depot floor where building materials had been left on and around pallets of food’.  In terms of cleanliness, there was major non-compliance with statutory obligations, but the most damning section was management of food safety.  There was ‘no food safety management system to ensure that food was being kept safe’ for human consumption.

 But the original tender documents state that ‘All companies applying for a place on the framework must be of a food hygiene rating of 3 or above.’  So why did the council award the contract to Totally Welsh given they didn’t meet the criteria?

 The council tender documents are littered with mistakes, which discredits the process.  Bizarrely, it demands that milk be provided to school in single-use 189ml plastic bottles rather than reusable pint bottles, such as those used by Raglan Dairy.  This would be terrible the environment.  The council would require about half a million of these bottles per year.  The documents also list the schools requiring milk deliveries and include private schools such as Talocher, Monmouth School for Boys and Haberdashers Monmouth School for Girls.  Surely it is well known that the council doesn’t run these schools, so why did they try to include them in a milk contract?

 Our central question in the debate focussed on this statement in the tender documents: ‘the Council reserves the right to alter the final ranking position at any time should there be sufficient reason regarding the quality and management of the service provided by those occupying the Primary and Secondary provider positions’.

 We have asked the council to get legal advice on whether there is sufficient evidence to switch the first (Totally Welsh) and second (Raglan Dairy) ranked company so we can restore local milk supply.