Anger over council's DIY deal with B&Q

Published:  03 March, 2012

UPDATED: 8 March 2012

TYNESIDE: A council DIY scheme is under review after a complaint that it is hurting small businesses. Housing chiefs in South Tyneside are examining their exclusive tie-in with B&Q, which prevents tenants shopping elsewhere.

The scheme gives people up to £200 to spend on sprucing up their properties after repair work. But the money - available on the B&Q Decorating Card -- can only be used at the DIY giant.

The deal has been criticised by at least one independent retailer, who claims his firm is at a disadvantage.

Walter Metcalfe, 74, who has run his family business, Metcalfe's Home Decor in Westoe Road, South Shields, for 45 years, insisted it was "grossly unfair".

He has made a number of complaints to South Tyneside Homes, which manages the council's housing stock.

Metcalfe says many tenants have told him they want to buy his products - but cannot under the terms of the scheme. But that may now change after council chiefs confirmed it was under review.

Mark Whittle, South Tyneside Homes' director of investment, said: "This review will include discussions with local suppliers and consultation with tenants.

"Our decoration assistance scheme is for tenants moving into a property needing decoration or for tenants who have had Decent Homes improvement work carried out.

"We looked at a variety of options and our research indicated that the B&Q scheme was very accessible, offered a variety of products and ancillary services, proving to be good value for money.

"This meant we could save time and money in establishing the scheme for council tenants."

South Tyneside Homes did not say how much the scheme was worth to B&Q, which has a store in South Shields.

Update 8 March

A single branch of B&Q makes £200,000 a year from its exclusive tie-in deal with South Tyneside Homes.

Local councillor Gordon Finch uncovered the figure after independent South Shields trader, Walter Metcalfe, who is excluded, branded it unfair last week.

Under the deal, council tenants get up to £200 to spruce up their homes but the funds can only be spent at B&Q which has a South Shields branch.

Mr Finch said: "South Tyneside Homes does a fantastic job, but someone other than B&Q should be given a bite of the cherry.

"There should be some help in the scheme for local businesses.  All the money available from this should not be taken away from them."

Mr Metcalfe had urged South Tyneside Council to rethink the policy, which has run since January 2010.  Mr Metcalfe, who has traded as Metcalfe's Home Decor in Westoe Road, South Shields, for more than 45 years, has labelled the scheme "grossly unfair".

He insists many tenants want to shop with him, but cannot.  Finch, who represents the Independent Alliance in East Shields, was given the financial figure in a request to South Tyneside Homes.

B&Q said it welcomed the review, insisting it had a long history supporting social housing in South Tyneside and elsewhere.  A spokeswoman added: "We pitched for this business, and were appointed as their chosen supplier.

"This experience helps us provide the best schemes, products and deals to satisfy the community.

"As well as being the nation's largest home improvement centre, our ties within the local community in South Tyneside are strong.

"We trade locally, employ locally and work with local charities to add value to the community.  We will be helping South Tyneside Homes with their review."

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