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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SR 2010 - Paper Tiger

Oct 20, 2010


Well how about it? I have ploughed my way through the 104 pages that make up the Spending Review 2010. Civil Service drafting capability is still first class, with lots of weasel words and meaningless statements. It rather reminds me of a professional wrestling match, lots of noise and action, but no one ever gets hurt.

Yes, procurement does get a mention on at least eight occasions and is going to be asked to deliver savings, as did SR 2007 and 2004 before it, although the scale does not appear to be clear. The decision to centralize central government buying is confirmed on page 21 for “commonly used goods and services” bringing in “efficiency gains of £400M.” This immediately begs questions, such as how much of the £400M will be cashable and what plans are there to extend the model to less commonly used things?

Moving on to page 33, we read, “in central government, there will be an overhaul of procurement processes and the financial appraisal of suppliers will now be coordinated from one point.” This is marketed as being about “freeing up frontline staff”. Again the questions abound such as what overhaul, why just the financial appraisal and what value does this activity really deliver apart from ticking a box?

Only when we get to page 39 (paragraph 1.101) does the language start to toughen with “central manadation (Ed – is there such a word?) of commodity procurement” and “a more coordinated approach to supplier management to ensure government acts as a single client with key suppliers.” Although it does not say how, these statements could form the nuggets of something good. The fact that these mandated contracts will be open to local government could be good for leverage purposes and to stop every little public sector body having its own office supplies contract.

When you think that SR 2010 takes pubic expenditure levels back to those of 2006, one might be tempted to ask “crisis? What crisis?”


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