Council advert sparks top job row

6 August 2003
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07 August 2003 | David Arminas

The London Borough of Haringey's former purchasing boss has defended her decision to advertise for a replacement with no experience in procurement.

Local authority purchasers have attacked the council's recent recruitment advertisement in two national newspapers as a setback for procurement in the sector.

The advert, placed by Veredus Executive Resourcing, said: "You don't need to have worked directly in procurement before", and offered a salary of up to £70,000.

But Sally Brooks, who left the job as head of strategic procurement last week, insisted purchasing experience was not essential.

She told SM: "At this level, you need strategic planning, risk management and change management skills. Frankly, you can pick up procurement. It is not a hugely complex area, especially if you have a good team with experience and knowledge, which we have."

Brooks said she had never had a purely procurement role. "I've never ordered anything in my life, and wouldn't know where to start."

An architect by training, she worked in contract management in the construction sector and was head of property and services at the London Borough of Camden before joining Haringey 18 months ago.

She is proud of the council, which was given top marks by the Audit Commission this year for its procurement achievements.

Procurement has helped the council to meet its goals to benefit the local economy, including reducing poverty and environmental needs, she added.

But John Scowen, head of procurement for the London Borough of Havering and chairman of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government (Sopo), said the right candidate should have at least some procurement experience, especially at the strategic level.

"You need to know something about the main procurement issues, and unless you have done some purchasing roles before, you are not likely to."

He added: "This may mean that more councils will believe it is alright to appoint non-procurement people into strategic procurement roles."

But Brooks, who this week started work at the Department for Education and Skills, where she is in charge of a £6 billion budget for schools construction in England and Wales, said: "If we had someone with all the other skills and the procurement skills, then that would be a bonus. But the key skills can be found in any number of areas."

The advert also made no mention of CIPS qualifications.

Peter Smith, president of CIPS, said it was "a bit ironic" because the government was calling for more professionalism in central government procurement.

"The Office of Government Commerce is keen on the importance of things like CIPS qualifications, but local government appears to be going in the other direction," he said.

SMaug2003

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