Crown Commercial Service formation needs an Act of Parliament

I'd heard rumours a while ago that the creation of the UK government’s new “ Crown Commercial Service” (CCS)  was taking longer than expected because it would require an Act of Parliament - something that hadn't been anticipated or understood when the decision was first made.

It seemed unlikely to me that such an important issue would have been overlooked, but it seems now that may have been the case. The CCS is not going to come into being until a bill goes before Parliament, probably in April. Here's the latest communication we've seen: 

"The CCS will become an entity and trading fund of the Cabinet Office on the xx date of April 2014 once the [insert the name of the bill] goes before Parliament. The bill makes clear that the CCS will supersede the Government Procurement Service and all rights and responsibilities transfer to the CCS. Any Managed Service Agreement signed prior to CCS becoming an entity is entered into in the knowledge of the forthcoming pending change".

So that suggests a considerable cost for making this change - as well as the delay and hassle factor. And whatever you think of the whole centralisation agenda, I'm still far from clear why it needed a new organisation to deliver it - why did GPS not just grow into the wider role? Was it a pure ego thing that officials or Ministers wanted to be associated with something new and shiny? Or the desire to signify a new approach to the market and stakeholders through a new organisation?

I really don't know, but this is costing the taxpayer now for little obvious benefit. (Seriously, if someone in Cabinet Office can explain why it was necessary I'll happily publish that explanation - this is genuine puzzlement, not points scoring!)

It's also clear that the transition to all departments transferring their "common spend" categories to the CCS (or GPS as it still is for some time to come) is taking longer than expected. The original plan was for everything to be transferred by the end of 2013 (calendar year), but that isn't going to happen. Stephen Kelly, Cabinet Office COO, in a Tweeted response to my recent question about timing (after the Cabinet Office press briefing recently) said this,

 "We are working with all depts to transfer spend by end 13/14. MoD, DfT, CLG, DWP are the early adopters for CCS services "

So the timescales have slipped and my sources suggest that the middle of next calendar year is a more likely target for full transfer. And there is still considerable nervousness amongst departments as to the service they're going to get. That's inevitable and it doesn't mean it won't work, we should say. But there's a lot of pressure on whoever comes into that CCS Commercial Delivery Director role shortly - screening interviews are underway, we understand.

Voices (5)

  1. Bill Atthetill:

    Possible alternative names? How about:

    – Bill Crothers Commercial Services LPP (off-shore, tax efficient entity)

    – Limited to Common Goods and Services Limited

    – ‘Crown Reps And Partnerships’ Limited (think about it…)

    – Buying Team (Proxima don’t need it anymore, and what worked for them…)

  2. Dr Gordy:

    So risk management and stakeholder management is embedded in the planning. Not a good omen. Wait till Patrica (Margaret to the rest of us Peter) Hodge picks up on that and asks how much this unforeseen delay is losing taxpayer savings. Interesting that May 15 will be a new election and perhaps a new agenda.

  3. Trevor Black:

    Please, please, please just stop! Just remember the consequences on those who wake up each day and can’t remember if they are working for the Crown Suppliers, Office of Government Commerce, OGC Buying Solutions, and Government Procurement Service or if they report to The Treasury or The Cabinet Office. With this self inflicted identity crisis how will they ever be taken seriously. Meanwhile the principles of managing strategic procurement projects have not changed. Also remember that if you change the CPO every few weeks your chances of ever being taken seriously are greatly diminished. Sorry – keep forgetting that this is the Civil Service after all and if you want to put off the inevitable you can always have another restructure.

  4. life:

    Well on the bright side, things are getting better.

    When reminiscing over previous rebranding efforts, try googling “OGC logo” (or as google suggests, “OGC logo fail”). And who can forget SCAT (don’t google it!), with the hastily inserted hyphen.

    And both of these committed before the floodgates were closed on the “marketing cash tsunami”….

  5. Final Furlong:

    Ordinarily, I’m not against the notion of spending a few quid going through a rebranding exercise, if it resets the tone, or generates a sense of renewed purpose, within a sector or market. However, the new brand needs to be right, and, to be frank, the name ‘Crown Commercial Service’ is, quite simply, so very silly, that one can only assume that this is the one area where they didn’t spend any money at all on seeking robust independent advice.

    Firstly, use of the word ‘Crown’ (replacing the word ‘Government’) is nonsense – it’s something that we might have seen on “Yes Minister”, given that it’s so old, irrelevant and abstract. Everyone understands the word ‘Government’, whereas ‘Crown’ is synonymous with a very small group of people buried in a basement in Treasury “who don’t get out that much”. Next, the use of the word ‘Commercial’ to replace ‘Procurement’ is disingenuous. Did they know that, in the private sector (which they continue to describe as the ‘commercial sector’), the word ‘Commercial’ is still widely synonymous with “business transactions and investments which generate income” – not ‘procurement’ which is still widely synonymous with “strategic sourcing and supply management”? True, there are numerous Commercial Directors across Central Government, and some of them (though I can think of only one…) do actually deliver strategic commercial activities on behalf of their Departments. But the CCS won’t be doing any of the market-specific stuff – only ‘common goods and services’ and related commodities.

    With some sense of irony (or humour perhaps) Mr Crothers title is “Chief Procurement Officer, Central Government”. (Perhaps, they missed the clue in his title.)

    Perhaps, Peter, you should ask your readers for their ideas for an alternative name, similar to Proxima, who recently asked their own readers for an alternative name for ‘Procurement’. The indefatigable David Atkinson suggested “External Resource Management”, but I sense that may be a bit too clever for this bunch. Suggestions welcome, and, before you suggest it, no(!), one can’t choose ’Government Procurement Service’, because that’s already been rejected for being far too obvious for ‘doing what it says on the tin’…

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