In the UK, the mayor of Salford has written to Michael Gove to ask for help to cut ties with the Russian energy firm Gazprom, warning that “state-owned and/or backed Russian organisations and services are still woven inextricably into the delivery of Local Government services within the United Kingdom”.
Paul Dennett wants his local authority not to have to renew its non-domestic natural gas contract with Gazprom, agreed in June 2020 when the Russian firm far outbid domestic providers.
He says that councils across the country also use Gazprom because it is so much cheaper than other companies and so automatically wins procurement competitions.
Gazprom also provides energy to a number of NHS trusts. On Thursday, the health secretary Sajid Javid began talks with NHS England (NHSE) over ending the contracts, which are reported by Politico to have been worth £16m in 2021.
“Our contract will be up for renewal in June, and I do not wish for public money to be spent towards the income of the Russian state during the present military crisis in Ukraine. However, at present under the current round of sanctions and/or rules, such considerations would seemingly not be considered legally relevant in assessing Gazprom’s suitability for winning the next tendering exercise (or not),” Dennett writes in a letter to Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up.
Dennett says Salford is fully supportive of the government’s stated ambitions to “inflict devastating consequences on President Vladimir Putin and Russia” following Russia’s unprovoked assault on the sovereign nation of Ukraine, using sanctions and other financial measures.
“However, state-owned and/or backed Russian organisations and services are still woven inextricably into the delivery of local government services within the United Kingdom, and at present their involvement in bidding for tenders and contracts is enshrined in UK public procurement regulations for the procurement and tendering of services,” writes Dennett.
He wants Gove to change the law to make it easier for local authorities to break ties with Gazprom and stop Gazprom pitching for replacement contracts, even if it means having to pay more for municipal energy.