What Does the End of the Maude Era Mean for the Crown Commercial Service?

D8CF15C18CWhat is the future for the Crown Commercial Service?

With the new government bedding in, we have a new “Minister for Procurement”, Matt Hancock. He is close to George Osborne, worked in his family’s small business before getting into politics, and is clearly a bright chap – degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. Our sources say he is ambitious, and will be looking for a Cabinet post in a couple of years, so he may see this as a stepping stone, not a long-term crusade (which was how his predecessor, Francis Maude, saw it). He “likes to take a relatively small issue and really make things happen in that area,” we’re told.

Other indications are coming from John Manzoni, the ”civil service CEO.” A speech to the FDA union's annual conference last week was reported by Civil Service World. He wants to “draw the centre, the Treasury and Cabinet Office more collectively together.” And what about this, somewhat ‘dissing’ Maude almost before he’s left the building, for his often confrontational approach to the departments:

The fresh team at the Cabinet Office now wanted to move to a new phase, with a focus on closer working between the Treasury and the Cabinet Office at the centre of government, as well as across departments.

"Our first step was to intervene and this was the Francis Maude era," Manzoni told union delegates. "There was an intervention in stopping all the bad stuff happening. But what we hadn’t figured out how to do was how to enable the good stuff to happen.”

Interesting – Cabinet Office didn’t know “how to make good stuff happen.” That sounds pretty damning! And this was perhaps even more interesting from a procurement perspectivervice?

And the good stuff happens when you put great people out in the departments. It doesn’t happen when you put great people in the centre.”

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has been all about taking people out of departments and putting them in the centre. Some were “great people,” some not, supplemented by a major external recruitment programme into CCS.

So do Manzoni’s words suggest a likely change of strategy? And how does the current CCS redundancy programme, apparently sitting alongside a continuing recruitment programme, all fit with this? Interesting times, my friends, interesting times.

We have also discovered that consulting giant McKinsey has been engaged by CCS. Cabinet Office gave us a brief quote - “we are working with McKinsey on a savings project - and they were appointed through an open competition under the ConsultancyOne agreement.” (The firm is not actually on the "Procurement Lot" of ConsultancyOne but they are on another "Finance Lot.")

So nothing like getting one of the most expensive consulting firms in the world (and one of the best of course) in to advise you on “a savings project.” What’s going on, we wonder? What on earth are McKinsey doing? And how much is it costing?

We previously had a hunch that the election might prove to be the high-water mark for centralised procurement in central government, and that is looking like it may turn out to be accurate, going back to Manzoni’s comments. It’s also unlikely, we feel, that Hancock will be quite as generally interested in procurement as Maude, although the SME agenda may excite him. So we will of course be keeping a close eye on developments, but any information our readers can provide would be gratefully received (and carefully handled).

Voices (3)

  1. Bill Atthetill:

    Manzoni is a bright guy and he will be aware that the CCS has indeed ‘intervened’ though many would argue that ‘interfered’ would be cosier to the truth. I hear how often the ‘complex commercial transactions team’ turns up to meetings to simply ask the simplest of questions to eventually claim the savings. Bill Crothers has created an organisation on his own image – and they’ve also come up short on delivering anything.

    1. Secret Squirrel:

      Oh, how wrong you are, Bill.

      They’ve delivered two things:

      1) A huge monstrosity that does exactly the same as before but got rid of some heads out of departments and funded them out of a trading fund
      2) The perfect easy target for some efficiency saving by laying off hundreds and hundreds

      1. Bill Atthetill:

        It’s years since I was told that I wrong!

        Still, you’re quite right. It’s just a giant pile of crap, scooped up from within Departments, to be shovelled onto the heads of its unsuspecting customers. I guess I am hoping that John Monzani will seek to reverse the model and build much necessary capability in Departments. The CCS (and CCTT) can be left to buy office products and some IT.

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