LGA Local Government Procurement Strategy – we’re the best, says National Procurement Champion

I’m reading the new Local Government Association (LGA) National Procurement Strategy for local government in England (to give the full title) at the moment. We’ll report on it at more length soon, but I couldn’t help commenting on the first sentence in the Foreword from Martin Reeves, Chief Exec of Coventry City Council and “National Procurement Champion”.

Local government is the best performing part of the public sector when it comes to procurement: we pay our prime suppliers on time; we place almost half of our business with local SMEs; and we use procurement to consider how it can improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of our communities.

Now there’s an interesting claim. If I were being malicious, I might offer this alternative (follow the links for more detail):

“Local government is the worst performing part of the public sector when it comes to procurement. It has had more headline cases of fraud than any other; it has wasted millions, perhaps billions through disastrous business process outsourcing contracts that failed to deliver; it allowed its most significant supplier in its MOST critical spend area to go bust with huge consequences for councils and users of the service; it has seen smaller councils slashing procurement departments to the bare bones and further, whilst funding for wider collaborative work has dried up; it has seen some councils simply giving up and outsourcing procurement, sometimes with interesting conflict of interest issues; and has generally failed to drive sensible collaboration because of infighting, both political and management, in many parts of the country”.

OK, I’m being harsh here. Perhaps very harsh. But the truth is somewhere in between local government being the best and being the worst, I suspect. Some of the best procurement people, organisations and practices I know in the UK public sector are in local government, but my goodness, it is highly variable. Just one other comment for now about the LGA strategy document. Reeves says this:

“… we need a more strategic and commercial approach to the largest areas of spend, energy, construction and ICT…”

But the largest spend area for local authorities, by some distance, is social care. Why is that not listed here, and indeed, why is it barely mentioned in the document? Has that been put in the “too difficult” bucket in terms of the strategy?

Anyway, a more detailed review will follow next week.

Voices (3)

  1. Ian R:

    But the LGA has been clever here in that it has reflected all the highly political objectives set by Central Government and talked about endlessly by George Osbourne, Vince Cable, Francis Maude and Eric Pickles i.e, we must increase spend with SMEs, pay suppliers on time, deliver growth to local economies and value to communities – and then used the report to say – we’re the best at that, which is true in most senses, but you would expect it being LOCAL.

    Look forward to reading what you think of the strategy Peter. These sort of things can quickly go out of date…

  2. Bill Atthetill:

    Very good Peter, and spot on.

    There are some excellent teams in Local Gov but to say they’re the best across all Government would mean that all Central Gov, Defence, NHS, and the new Crown Commercial Service are all totally shit.

    The NHS is very good.

  3. Dan:

    Because social care comes under ‘commissioning’ which is completely different from procurement. Somehow.

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