As one of the biggest employers in the county and with an annual budget of nearly a quarter of a billion pounds, Monmouthshire County Council has considerable spending power, but how that spend is used is a matter of debate.  When my group led the council, it was really important to us that we supported local businesses as well as local farmers, so using good quality Monmouthshire produce was a key policy goal.

Back in the autumn of 2018, when I had cabinet responsibility for education, I announced that we had awarded a contract to Raglan Dairy to supply milk to the council’s schools, as well as other council services like our leisure centres, care homes and tourism sites like Tintern Old Station and Caldicot Castle.  We knew that we were being supplied with milk from eight local farms, all in Monmouthshire.

 At the end of January, Raglan Dairy was informed by the council that they would not be continuing with the contract and that it would be awarded to another company based over 100 miles away, following a tendering exercise.  Clearly, this is a massive blow to a local company, but it’s also really disappointing for pupils and others who will no longer be able to drink Monmouthshire milk.  It sends entirely the wrong message about food procurement and actively contradicts so many council policies.  Council policy documents will tell you the Council is committed to local procurement, supporting local businesses, reducing carbon emissions, yet this decision represents the precise opposite.

 I know my colleagues Peter Fox MS and David Davies MP have also been speaking to James from Raglan Dairy and everyone’s disappointment about recent events as well as a determination to put pressure on the council to change their procurement practices so local companies can compete.

 It’s almost two months since the contract was awarded and almost two weeks since the news broke on social media and the local newspapers about Raglan Dairy’s contract ending, but other than a bland statement from a council spokesman a couple of days ago, there’s been silence.  We haven’t heard anything from the councillors who are actually responsible for the council’s procurement policies, who will have overseen this awarding process.  This debacle has caused enormous upset amongst residents and there are demands for the councillors responsible to intervene to ensure that Monmouthshire County Council once again supplies Monmouthshire milk in all its council services.