Council quizzes clients on its skills

6 January 2000
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06 January 2000 | Elizabeth Bellamy

Portsmouth City Council (PCC) is asking its external suppliers to rank its effectiveness as a client for the first time, writes Elizabeth Bellamy.

"The survey will give us valuable feedback and allow us to work with our suppliers to reduce costs," said David Pointon, PCC's procurement manager. "It's a win-win situation."

Questionnaires were sent out this week to 150 social care, civil engineering, building maintenance, leisure services and general goods and services contractors to ask their opinion of PCC's contract management and specification, tendering and payment performance. Suppliers have been given until 21 January to respond.

The survey is part of the council's best-value review of its procurement practices. The assessment of its £60 million external spend was due to be wound up in April after one year, but was extended by two years to allow time for the implementation of results, said Pointon.

Pointon is hoping the effectiveness survey, set to be repeated next year, will help PCC to improve its contract management skills, particularly the way it resolves disputes with suppliers.

"The results will tell us if we are too reasonable with contractors. Clearly, we don't want to send out the message that we are a soft touch," he said.

The council is expected to launch a pilot contract management training scheme this month, as part of the review. There are as many as 100 PCC staff involved in letting contracts who lack formal training, said Pointon.

Dave Wheller, chairman of the Society for Purchasing Officers in local authorities, supported the scheme. He said the best practice regime had "created an ever-greater need for contract and project management skills".

SMjan2000

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