Communities and Local Government (CLG) clearly does have an uncanny knack of making itself a laughing stock when it makes any utterance about procurement. Whether this is the fault of its civil servants or headline seeking politicians is a moot point!
The latest example of its poor judgment can be seen in the recent press release http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1925280. First of all full marks to”procurement experts”, Opera, for getting their sales and marketing literature posted on the CLG site. And bonus marks for getting the redoubtable Mr. Pickles to make out this is ground breaking stuff and put in a supporting quote.
But what of the content? Any “procurement expert” would not take the expenditure on three categories across three councils totaling £13.6M and project this into savings of over £10B across the whole of local government. The three categories are hardly representative. Whilst there is always cash to be saved with mobile phones and legal services, they account for less than 0.2% of a typical council’s spend. Energy is a different matter altogether. It is a traded commodity which requires specific industry knowledge and is already acquired nearly as well as in the private sector thanks to the efforts of Buying Solutions and KCC Laser. Could it be that when Eric Pickles talks about “shopping around” he has been persuaded by the “experts” that energy procurement should be done using a price comparison web site?
The Coalition government is right about seeking significant cashable savings from local authority procurement and commissioning. But it will only come through concerted leadership and action with regular deployment of proven commercial techniques – e-Auctions, demand management, shared category teams, removal of cost uplifts, supplier relationship development etc. Transparency, data analytics and headline grabbing rhetoric make it far less likely to happen!