The Conservative Party procurement manifesto 2015 – part 2

We continue with our leaked report on public procurement, prepared by McKain Consultants for the Conservative Party. Today we feature the forward-looking element of the report.

Part 2 – Public Procurement Manifesto 2015-20

In part 1 we looked at the Conservative party record during the current Parliament in terms of public procurement matters. We will now look forward to what might be included in the manifesto for the 2015 election. That will be a combination of 'keeping on the right track' (which fits with the wider Conservative message), along with 'new ideas and innovation' – again, mimicking the wider voter proposition.

The 'right track' should include a continuation of the strong cost management approach implemented during this government. You should retain departmental spend controls at the centre, promising scrutiny of major contracts, consulting assignments and the like. (Every discussion of your proposals here should refer back to Labour’s failure to control costs in areas such as consulting during their last period in power).

You can talk about the savings that will (might) start flowing from the centralised Crown Commercial Service, as they take on more spend from around Departments. But this topic should be kept low-key, as we do not want to draw attention to the slow progress to date. But the voters like the concept that ‘big deals are better deals’, so we can continue to promote that approach.

Extending the G-Cloud principles, perhaps into more spend areas, and looking to allow suppliers more dynamic access to government marketplaces is another theme which can be expanded - the new EU regulations may allow for using innovative technology in this area, although this is too complex to be discussed in detail in the manifesto of course. Breaking up large IT contracts is another popular and populist theme, although there is little real evidence it is workable, so any proposals should be kept high-level.

On that note of technology, you may want to consider the pioneering work of Norfolk Council in their use of 'optimisation' technology. This has the potential to drive value benefits whilst opening up opportunities to small and local suppliers. A promise to use this type of approach wherever possible would be appropriate, without committing you to anything very definite.

Obviously, there are various aspects of public procurement that should not under any circumstances be included in the manifesto. Don't mention MOD or Health procurement issues. MOD is likely to be still embroiled in working out the DE&S strategy - and if partners have been appointed, benefits won't be evident and the public may indeed perceive Bechtel or Capita getting closely involved with weapons procurement as a negative rather than positive. We also believe that the voter does not perceive the commissioning approaches in health as being anything to do with 'procurement' so you can keep that out of this debate!

In terms of initiatives for SMEs, you should offer a further development of current ideas around simplifying bidding for contracts, and extend the Mystery Shopper service to offer suppliers an even stronger route to challenge procurement approaches and decisions, with perhaps a dedicated SME helpline. We recommend reviving the Innovation Think-Tank initiative in some form. There are other easy to implement and low cost ideas here that could be promoted - a series of regional workshops for SMEs? We suggest a set of coherent actions that together can form a procurement sub-section of the 'promoting economic growth' chapter in the overall party manifesto.

Continuity can also be offered in areas such as promoting mutuals and social enterprises, although again you should not draw attention to the patchy record of the last five years. We would not recommend focusing on radical new outsourcing or privatisation issues, as research shows that the public are not keen conceptually on those concepts, but accept without too much challenge the case by case approach you have successfully made over the last term.

Whilst this is not a radical agenda of procurement change, it builds on the achievement of 2010-15 and will fit well with the wider manifesto. We recommend this approach.

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Voices (2)

  1. Dan2:

    Or this:

  2. Dave Orr:

    Don’t mention any Councils with big outsourcing deals: Somerset and South West One or Liverpool and BT or Birmingham and Capita etc, etc.

    Oh….and avoid visiting the London Borough of Barnet until after the elections in 2015 – that powder keg (with Capita) could blow up in their faces at any time.

    Do keep banging on about “commissioning” as the public do not generally realise that this is outsourcing or privatisation by another name – eyes passim the Olympics and prisoner tagging fiascos.

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