18 October 2001 | David Arminas
Sir Ian Byatt's major report on procurement in local government is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach to improving purchasing, but a chance for procurement professionals to pick and choose their routes to best value.
"Purchasers don't need government to nanny them," Sarah Wood, director of finance and performance review at Birmingham City Council, told delegates to the annual conference of the Society of Procurement Officers in local government (Sopo).
The Byatt report, Delivering Better Services for Citizens, was intended to raise purchasing's profile. "A strong element in the recommendations is be aware of risk," said Wood, who was on the Byatt review panel.
Risk management came over well in the report, according to David Pointon, procurement manager at Portsmouth City Council. "But I don't think people understand just what it involves," he said.
"Procurement needs to zoom in on some of the key points in Byatt," noted Peter Howarth, on secondment from Suffolk County Council to the Improvement and Development Agency, which advises local authorities, where he is working on the development of an e-procurement portal.
Consortia development and a general skills gap for strategic procurement including risk management are some areas to be addressed, Howarth added.
Wood also urged purchasers to look for information and skills outside their normal business circles. A major stumbling block for purchasers is often that it is not made clear to suppliers what the council wants, she added.
• The Byatt report is available at www.localregions.dtlr.gov.uk/consult/betterservices