COUNCILLORS left fuming after a multi-million pound contract for 225,000 bins went to France have pledged changes to avoid the embarrassment being repeated.

Labour-led Durham County Council handed a £4.2m contract to make and distribute 225,000 “twin bins” to Environmental Systems Expertise (ESE), which is making the bins in France, despite a UK firm bidding £250,000 cheaper.

The decision provoked fury last month, but council chiefs insisted they had made it clear that bids would not be judged on price alone and European rules banned them from favouring British firms.

Yesterday, Councillor Mark Wilkes, the Liberal Democrat shadow portfolio holder for regeneration, accused the council of failing to implement changes to procurement promised in June 2009, including councillors being allowed to comment on contracting issues and being regularly updated on the progress of a new procurement plan.

He told a County Hall meeting: “I don’t think we’re getting the information we need.

If we don’t do something about it, we’ll all get blamed again.”

Labour’s Joe Armstrong, the council’s procurement champion, said he was quite satisfied with how the bins contract had been handled, but changes would be made, including giving councillors advance notice of contracts which were coming up.

He said: “I want to make sure the money we spend, we spend in the right way and it helps our people here.

“We need to refresh this. We will kick this about to ensure we get the best results.”

Councillor Paul Stradling said a forward plan of contracting would allow councillors to ask questions on decisions affecting their areas.

However, only independent officials could award contracts.

Councillor Peter Brookes said the procurement process was good, but communication needed to improve.

The council hopes to roll out the twin-bin system, under which rubbish and recycling bins are emptied fortnightly on alternate weeks, between April and June – saving £1m a year and boosting recycling. The ESE deal cost £1m less than the council had budgeted for.

An e-petition on the council’s website calling for the decision to be reconsidered has collected 30 signatures. It closes next Tuesday.