Public sector bonanza? I see grey clouds ahead….

The Times leads today with how UK public sector wages have grown compared to compared to the private sector.  And there's no doubt that over the last five years or so,  public sector procurement roles have grown in number and attractivness.  I remember, not that long ago, you would look at job ads in Supply Management and giggle at this sort of thing;

"Head of Procurement, Snodbury County Council; we need a dynamic, experienced, mildly super-human individual to take responsibility for all procurement spend, and save the world at weekends, must be CIPS qualified, with at least 20 years experience, and amazing inter-personal skills.  Salary; £7,500 plus free pencils".

The public sector in general just was not competing in many cases.  But all that has changed.   Apart from the simple fact that 80% + of the jobs advertised in 2009 (I would estimate) were public sector, the packages are now generally much more competitive; it is all 'Category Leaders' on £60K and of course amazing public sector pensions. I'm not saying this is a bad thing; we needed more talent in the public sector, but will this all change after the election?

I have no doubt that major cost cutting is on the way; it all depends whether procurement people can position themselves to be (and apologies for the cliche), "part of the solution, not the problem".   Will we be seen by the politicians and top management as enablers to help make the cuts as painless as possible by really getting to grips with savings from third party spend; or will we be just another function or Department to which an across the board 10 or 20% headcount reduction is applied?

So if you are a head of function in the UK public sector, and you haven't thought yet about how to position yourself and your team in the right way over the year ahead, perhaps doing so would be a good New Years resolution!

Peter Smith

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