Down the Procurement Pub with the Smith Brothers, BravoSolution, Railways and The Killers

One problem working in a very small business is you don’t get the wonderful office Christmas Party experience. Actually, I have pretty mixed memories of those, including one dreadful NatWest event when I almost got into a fight with the DJ because I very gently suggested he might like to play some songs that a bunch of people - average age 35 or so - might actually want to dance to!

Anyway, I’m doing OK this year in terms of smaller celebrations, having fixed up drinks with Guy Allen, my collaborator on Real World Procurement for several years, my colleague Nancy Clinton, and David Smith, public procurement legend. Here we are (the Smith Brothers) in the Surbiton Flyer this week, pints of Fullers seasonal Holly Bush ale in hand, discussing the future of Crown Commercial Service. And some other stuff too.

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On Tuesday we did my last webinar of the year and the last in the 2017 Real World Procurement series with BravoSolution and I talked about Procurement Value – It’s Not Just Savings! I’ll have more on the detail of the session next week but we had a big audience and some great and difficult questions (thanks to Messrs. Atkinson and Jackson amongst others …) And you can still access my words of wisdom here if you missed it first time round.

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LUPC (London Universities Purchasing Consortium) is again co-hosting a symposium and reception titled Socially Responsible Public Procurement for public procurement decision-makers at the historic Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich on Friday, 26 January 2018.  At the event, LUPC will launch a new eLearning suite, Protecting Human Rights in the Supply Chain, which will be free to public authorities and is based on their excellent guidance document. The event is held in conjunction with the Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group in the School of Law, University of Greenwich, and you can register for the event here - free for people from public sector bodies.  We've been to the last two or three of these and they're well worthwhile if you have any interest in these important issues.

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So should the railways be re-nationalised? Well, my local franchise, South-West Trains, moved recently to a new operator; South-Western Railways. I know it is early days, but so far the only difference seems to be a slightly less reliable service (same trains, same people, slightly higher fares). I don’t go into London every day, but aside from the mega-problems (a track-side fire this week caused chaos), I’m getting used to what seem like small delays almost every journey – just a few minutes, but annoying if you are cutting it fine for a meeting. That raises some interesting and more strategic questions about the nature of markets and contestability, and whether trying to apply the principles of the market economy to some industries really benefits consumers. Some big questions there we might come back to next year.

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Supply Management (and others) report that the “European Union (EU) and Japan have concluded negotiations on a free trade deal to create the world’s largest open economic area, signalling their rejection of the protectionist stance of US president Donald Trump”. The deal will remove EU tariffs of 10% on Japanese cars and the 3% rate typically applied to parts. For the EU, it will scrap Japanese duties of 30% on EU cheese and 15% on wines, and allow access to large public tenders in Japan (good luck with that guys!) Anyway, I’m sure the UK will negotiate something much better once we’re out of the EU…

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We’re running down our best albums of the year at the moment, but let’s get in the Christmas spirit with the Killers who have issued a seasonal song every year since 2006 in aid of the Product RED campaign, songs that are often very good / amusing / both. This is perhaps the best of them all – a song about a lump of coal that can actually bring a lump to your throat, which must be genius song-writing really.

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