The Guardian features our (pretty ancient) comment on Sir Philip Green..

To my surprise, I got a name check in the Guardian “Comment” pages yesterday. Aditya Chakrabortty’s article “Give these overpaid CEOs asbos (that's Antisocial Business Orders)” was an entertaining – and interesting – look at the tendency of government to reach for a “business expert” wherever they have a policy problem.

Mary Portas and her recent report on the problems of the High Street is an example, and Chakrabortty particularly dislikes the Beechcroft report on employment regulation - I’m afraid I disagree on that to some extent myself, as I’m in the process of considering taking on staff for the first time. But anyway, here’s the key extract from the Guardian.

“Not all these ideas stink as bad as Beecroft's, but the notion that business people have some unique cache of wisdom off-limits to anyone else is swiftly dispelled by a glance at the Green report on making government more efficient. Since I can't better it, let me quote the conclusion of Peter Smith, former director of purchasing for the Department of Social Security: "There is not a single procurement idea here that I have not read about in a previous report; is not already being implemented; or has not been tried and failed."”

Unfortunately, his link wasn’t exactly for our latest Spend Matters “exclusive” – rather something I wrote almost two years ago, in October 2010. And in a real ironic twist, it was the very last Blog I wrote for Supply Management magazine before they decided I was “competition” (we launched Spend Matters in that month) and banned any mention of me from their pages. (I’m not joking...)   It was probably the last time Supply Management or CIPS ever published anything critical of government as well, now I think about it...

Anyway, my SM piece commented – fairly unfavourably it should be said – on the review by Sir Philip Green into procurement in central Government. Well, it wasn’t really a review into that topic in its entirety, but an analysis of a few common spend categories. It pointed out price discrepancies, and as was later discovered by PC PRO magazine, the comparisons weren’t even like for like. However, the Green work did act as a driving force behind a more centralised approach for Whitehall procurement which may – I say “may” because the jury is still out –be a good thing.

The Guardian article moves on from the point about reviews into a more general comment about the remoteness of business leaders from the rest of us, and why some should be given "asbos".  I don't agree with all of it, but it's thought provoking and is worth reading for anyone interested in business, politics or the civil service. And I’ll be in touch with Chakrabortty tomorrow to let him know he can find some more up to date controversy on public sector procurement here on a regular basis!

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Voices (3)

  1. ChrisC:

    “the last time Spend Matters or CIPS ever published anything critical” – you meant Supply Management?

    1. Peter Smith:

      Indeed I do – now changed! That’ll teach me to have an (attempted) go at the competition! Thanks….

      1. Phoenix:

        To be fair to Supply Management, it has to tread very carefully so’s not to upset CIPS management. SM probably has to exercise rather more restraint than it would like in publishing features and articles that are critical of Government, given the “close working relationship” that now exists…

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