UK Central Government spend on consultants up 70% last year according to Bill Crothers

UK central government spent some 70% more on consultants in 2013/14 compared to 2012/13, according to an interview with Bill Crothers reported by Supply Management website this week. Crothers, the government's Chief Procurement Officer, said that spend was “around £850 million” in the last financial year, whilst in the previous year it was some £506 million, according to previous analysis from The Times. Spend was £2.4 billion back in 2009/10 however.

This recent increase is not surprising. It’s clear that as we approach the end of the Coalition’s term in office, there is a desire and need to get things done and show real progress. Almost inevitably that means bringing in the consultants. That’s particularly true as the government has driven through an impressive reduction in core civil service headcount over the last four years.

The overall savings announced by Cabinet Office are £14.3 billion for 2013/14, of which £5.4 billion are classified as ‘procurement’ savings. That is up from £3.8 billion last year, although it is worth remembering that the numbers are calculated against a 2009/10 baseline. So a recurring saving made in 2010/11 for instance can be counted every subsequent year. Of course, £14 billion is still a large and worthwhile number, and we’re not arguing that this isn’t the result of a lot of good and hard work by many people around government. (What would a Labour government have delivered?)

We will have more detailed commentary on these numbers once we’ve had a chance to examine the Cabinet Office material more closely. Crothers also said that procurement had entered a “second phase” and his team had moved from a “fairly blunt” approach with suppliers to becoming a “good, responsible customer”. I suspect there will be some ironic laughter at that in the supplier community.

Finally, I wonder why Crothers gave his interview to Supply Management and not to us at Spend Matters? It’s probably because of Supply Management’s fearless investigatory interviewing style. They asked him several penetrating questions in the interview such as ... er.. and then there was ... um....

Here’s what we might have asked.

• Why won’t you provide the business case for Crown Commercial Service (CCS) as per our FOI request?

• How is the implementation of the ‘pilot’ departments moving category spend into CCS going? Has that happened yet, as it’s way behind schedule?

• What role is CCS playing in the implementation of the Health procurement strategy, which is also slipping behind schedule – is CCS the delaying factor?

• We hear stories that at least one major IT supplier is refusing to deal with CCS. True or just a rumour?

So hard to understand why we didn't get the invite, isn't it?

And more on the savings report to come.

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Voices (5)

  1. KevinB:

    Some of the largest spend from G-cloud was with PWC consulting and Methods Consulting. Not really cloud services

  2. Dan2:

    Don’t forget the consultancy spend that will have been moved into other spend classifications e.g. Lot 4 of G-Cloud as a ‘Cloud Service’ that seems mysteriously like provision of advice…

  3. Secret Squirrel:

    Interesting read. I suppose the question re: consultancy spend being up is that people in glass houses can’t throw stones. When you’re spending that much on your own folly, you can’t really object to anyone else spending it, can you?

    1. Effwhitt:

      Indeed! What is the CO spend on consultants (under whatever guise)?

      1. Secret Squirrel:

        Lots….Have a look on the transparency pages for Cabinet Office. The spends on EY and PWC are quite impressive……if you like spending money, that is.

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