Crown Commercial Service senior roles – should you apply?

You have another two weeks to submit your application for three senior roles in the new Crown Commercial Service (CCS) in the UK Government. I spoke to Michael Dobson, the recruitment consultant leading the process the other day, who was very helpful, so I can now give you my personal views on the roles.

The Commercial Delivery  Director (SCS2 grade) will report to Bill Crothers (pictured here), the Government CPO  - not to the COO, as the website still says! Dobson was cautious about salary as you would expect, but in this case I would look at what David Shields, effectively the previous job holder, was earning – that’s in the public domain. So something around £130-150K should be negotiable for the right candidate.

The two other posts (here and here) are SCS1 – Directors of IT and telecoms - and here the website was somewhat misleading talking about a “substantial six-figure package”. The SCS1 range is between £58K and £118K and as I said before, I think you would be doing well to negotiate a basic into six figures. Most current SCS1s in government are on less than £100K. Certainly in the £90s is feasible however – and see my comment about pensions below.

The process involves “search” (i.e. headhunting) as well as “selection” (inviting applications) – and for what it’s worth, I haven’t heard anything that suggests there are preferred candidates. Not a stitch up on this occasion, as far as I know!  So here are my views on positives, negatives and unknowns about the roles.

Positives

·      Based on my own experience, public sector jobs have an element of interest that just doesn’t exist in the private sector. Look on the EU regulations as an intellectual challenge, not a barrier. And seeing projects you are working on featured in the media or being discussed in the Parliament is interesting, to say the least.

·      You can feel virtuous about doing a job that has some greater purpose rather than simply making your shareholders richer and getting your CEO a bigger bonus.

·      CCS / GPS is a surprisingly sophisticated operation in some ways. Look at their use of technology (IBM Emptoris, BravoSolution, ProcServe, Dun & Bradstreet) – and some of their category work is also leading edge (e.g. energy).

·      These are big jobs in terms of spend and reach. There aren’t many CPO roles that can say “I influence £10B of annual spend”.  That has secondary benefits as well – suppliers take your phone calls!

·      The whole CCS aspiration of becoming a true shared service provider – almost a procurement outsourcing firm in the mould of Xchanging, Proxima or Procurian – means that the job holders have the chance to make their mark with an innovative programme, and do something that will set them in good stead in terms of cvs and experience.

·      The value of a public sector pension is still huge – almost incalculable, as it is index-linked without any capping – you try and price that on the open market!  Adding that into the salaries makes this better rewarded than it first looks, particularly if you are based in Newport, Liverpool or Norwich.  (You can buy a 5 bedroom detached house with some land in Newport for the price of a 2-bed flat in Ealing...)

 Negatives

·      There is still considerable hostility to what is happening with CCS amongst some stakeholders. There are still arguments over the boundaries between what will be done by departments versus CCS, so you will spend a fair bit of time sorting out politics (with a small “p”) and handling tough stakeholder management issues.

·      As CCS becomes seen more as part of Cabinet Office rather than an independent entity, my view is that spend from the health and local authority sectors will decline (see here). That is going to put pressure on savings numbers and indeed the cost base of CCS.

·      A number of good people – not just David Shields – have left GPS / CCS recently.  A one-off or the start of a decline in staff morale and confidence?

·      For the more junior roles, you will not know who you are working for (the other new appointment), at least for much of the process. My advice for the SCS1 jobs – don’t sign the contract until you’ve met whoever has got the Delivery Director role.

Unknowns

·      Political – Labour have said nothing of interest about public procurement for three years. Who knows what they might want to do if they win the election in 2015. Centralise further? Scrap the CCS? I wouldn’t worry too much about this, but it is an uncertainty. And even if the Tories win, a new Minister who is not as committed to procurement as Francis Maude could make a difference.

·      Future prospects in terms of reward are unclear but you’re unlikely to be getting large salary increases or bonuses given the continuing parlous state of public finances.

·      What is Bill Crothers like to work for? You will have to judge that yourself (and ask him how long he intends to stay in post...)

Good luck – and we look forward to interviewing the new Commercial Delivery Director if Cabinet Office are still on speaking terms with us by that point.

Voices (3)

  1. Bill Atthetill:

    Waited 2 weeks…and noted how you’ve been absolutely inundated with responses to your original news in the form of a tsunami-sized wave of enthusiasm from the procurement community!

    This article (link below), in Supply Management, captures a few interesting insights which might explain the cumulative effect – a few relative ‘droplets’ of enthusiasm from senior practitioners across both the public and private sectors.

    In summary, if you’ve ever negotiated a significant, complex deal in the public sector in recent years, chances are, you’ve been “relatively junior and inexperienced”. But worry no more, because a new central ‘complex transactions team’ (a sub-team under Bill somewhere, in his vast CCS empire of circa 600 staff…) is going to make all the difference – especially on “big deals”. To all those potential candidates from the private sector contemplating a move into public sector, particularly into the new CCS, fear not, because, as Bill encouragingly tells us: “I think it’s important to acknowledge how hard it is to work this side of the fence. The scale and complexity is higher than anything you’ve experienced in the private sector and the degree of profile things get. A small mistake can end up on the front page of the newspaper.” (Perhaps the ‘complex transactions team’ will help them keep their names out of the press too…)

    The final paragraph is particularly interesting. The communication which went out to commercial directors included an organisation chart, and many of the names mentioned within it have raised a few eyebrows. Let’s hope they’re not “relatively junior or inexperienced” compared to the senior practitioners within Departments who, I’m told, were never given an opportunity to apply for any of these roles…

    http://www.supplymanagement.com/news/2013/crothers-plans-to-even-the-odds-in-government-contract-negotiations/

  2. bitter and twisted:

    How long do you have to cling on for (before being rumbled) to get the pension ?

    1. Sam Unkim:

      I think (hope) that Entwistle’s, 54 Days record, will prove hard to beat !!

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