The Budget and procurement (pause for tumbleweed…)

Wow! Wasn't the Budget exciting! (Pause for sarcasm to sink in...)

So immediate apologies to all non-UK readers who will I suspect immediately turn attention elsewhere. (Don't worry, we'll have another more interesting post along soon – and a music review this weekend...)

But never mind Granny Taxes, 50p higher rates and so on, one point stood out for me in the budget. And it was the dog that didn't bark, as Sherlock Holmes would have said.

I opened the main budget document – all 114 pages – and found the search box. searched for my word. Nothing. Tried again – must be some mistake. No. There was not a single mention of procurement in the entire budget speech or accompanying documents. That's £200 Billion a year of our money, over a third of all Government spend, and not a single new initiative to announce as part of the most important financial package of the year.

Indeed, there was nothing about the cost side of government really at all. The focus was on the revenue side – taxes – and growth, which we might define as laying down the foundations for future increased revenue. Nothing on procurement, or shared services, or civil service efficiency, or better management of markets, or.. well, you get the picture.

Do we assume therefore that the government feel the job is done on costs? That the budget cuts are already laid out for the next few years for departments, local authorities, and other government bodies, and implementation is not really a strategic issue?

Yet if you look at the savings put forward by Jon Hughes and Marc Day in their recent report for instance, you might agree there are still huge opportunities to contribute further to closing the budget deficit through better procurement. Or is it just that other announcements – for instance, the interesting package of new measures to support smaller suppliers – have been made separately to the main budget speech?

Anyway, it is in stark contrast to the days of Labour, when Treasury and Office of Government Commerce civil servants would be rushing around in the weeks before the budget to come up with some eye-catching announcements about savings, new initiatives on “policy through procurement”, property or programme management. I remember one budget when the Gershon Review seemed to fill about half the entire content of the documents issued by Treasury that day.

I guess the question is whether (and, recent interviews notwithstanding, excluding the generally very switched on Francis Maude) the wider UK political leadership particularly “get” the strategic importance of procurement? The jury is still out.

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Voices (2)

  1. life:

    Agreed – interesting to hear Osbourne refer at length to Education as a key driver to growth (and hence indirect component of his budget) on the Today programme also. Maybe it just reflects the refocussing/new dilineation of roles and responsibilities.. However, it remains odd and depressing that procurement doesn’t appear to be part of that focus.

  2. Epoch:

    …..or could it be that HMT has been sidelined in the Growth agenda and the real work (where procurement is sitting at the heart of the UK Growth) is actually being done elsewhere in Government? Elementary, if you think about it, my dear Watson.

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