Revealed: The Procurement Pub Debate – Who Got the Vote?

So we told you yesterday about last week’s great Spend Matters Procurement Pub Debate, sponsored by the lovely folk from Procserve, eProcurement leaders.  The motion under discussion was: “This (Public) House Believes the Result of the General Election Will Have No Impact on Public Procurement.”

But we left you hanging on yesterday – so which team won the debate?

Before we reveal what really swayed the audience - let's take a look at what was going through their minds. Questions from the floor included:

From a Central Department: In the case of a minority government, what's the impact of depending on smaller parties to set things right?

David answered that the more 'minority' the government, the less likely procurement will be affected. The more 'majority' the government, the opposite will apply. And that no government will give serious consideration to extracting the UK from the EU. In amazing accord, Lee answered that the more volatile a political situation, the less likely procurement issues will be taken seriously.

BT wondered whether, with a coalition of more than three parties, would there be so much compromising that nothing would get done. David agreed and said that this election may well result in a very loose coalition.

Spend Matters asked: which good scandal would give procurement a good kick up the behind? A great question, whose responses merit another story on another day!

Procserve asked a very well received question of each panel member: if they were the PM what one policy would make a difference ?

Nigel: put some clear objectives in place  to use technology, or we will still be sitting here next time around – it's inconceivable that government doesn’t push that.

Jackie: economic growth is key - we need that runway if we want to have capacity to expand. Companies will move abroad; we need to make the UK more accessible to the world, not less.

David: we should look at  regionalised procurement  for the public sector– not nationally centralised. And procurement should be put in hands of the professionals.

Lee: we should focus on the future  -invest in the youth of the country.

Following the closing comments from our panel, the motion was passed, by an overwhelming vote, by acclamation – we did not need to go through the lobbies or revert to written ballots. The Spend Matter chair, Peter Smith, expressed some surprise - "whilst all our speakers were excellent, I thought it would be finely balanced. The speakers against had some persuasive arguments – let’s face it, depending on the result of the election, we might be closer to leaving the EU, which would certainly have a big impact on public procurement".

And as Jackie pointed out, decisions on issues like airport capacity or high-speed rail will have important consequences for all of us, including government procurement, and those are very much influenced by the election result.

Or maybe we just had a bunch of cynics in the room, who feel that politicians don’ t really change much? But we suspect what won the day for David Smith and Nigel Clifford was this. They painted a convincing picture (amongst the jokes) that the election is likely to end up this week in a bit of a mess, with much uncertainty around coalitions, agreements, minority governments and the like.

If that does turn out to be the situation, then how high up the priority list is procurement likely to be? Are Ministers (even once some sort of government is formed) likely to see making major changes to procurement policies or practices as important and urgent topics to get stuck into? You get the picture.

So, given the extraordinarily high level of intellect amongst our audience, our take on the result of our debate is this. They believe that there could be major changes to public procurement coming out of the election. But that is only likely if there is a clear winner, and our audience don’t think that is likely. Hence, if we get the complex outcome that seems likely, procurement just isn’t going to figure that strongly.

Anyway, it was a really enjoyable evening, thanks again to Procserve, and of course to our wonderful speakers. And watch out for news of our next Pub Debate, coming soon!


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