About the Author

Ken Cole
SPS Consultancy

Ken Cole has worked in senior positions in both the public and private sectors and was one of the founding Directors of SPS in 2001. He recently completed a three year secondment as Director of the London Centre of Excellence. Ken has thrilled many public and private audiences with his incisive analysis, robust delivery and his belief in 'telling it as it is'. His blog is a regular commentary of the improvement and efficiency agenda.

Make sure you pay a frequent visit to find out Ken's latest thoughts on the workings of government, the latest policy initiatives and much more...

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Learning from UK central government

Apr 27, 2011

No, you haven’t read that incorrectly. This is in relation to the article produced in this month’s Supply Management (click here) regarding the £800M saving attributed to central government as a result of contract renegotiation.

Having been a civil servant for the first 19 years of my career, I tend to regard all such claims with a liberal pinch of salt – more like the contents of a gritting lorry if the truth were known. But not this time round. I think it is likely to be true for the following reasons:

  • UK central government is following the Scottish public sector and aggregating all its routine spend into a series of single contracts
  • UK central government has been recruiting really good commercially aware officials, such as John Collington and Bill Crothers and giving them teeth rather than making them advisors

The article mentions words such as ‘negotiation’, ‘margins’ and ‘single customer’ – all of which are associated with cashable savings. Also notice no references to creating more framework contracts.

So who should be learning from UK central government? UK local government in the first instance! I have been urging this approach for several years now and it is always deemed too difficult, or even illegal under EU rules. I repeat again – UK local government could easily take 15% off its direct procurement costs by smarter engagement – see the London Procurement Strategy (click here). This would be a very timely and profitable lesson.


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