16 December 2004 | Cara Whitehouse
The procurement department at Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council has helped to broker a partnership deal that will see more than 20 council functions outsourced, including procurement itself.
Fujitsu Services looks set to be confirmed this month as the council's strategic partner in the venture, which is worth £650 million.
Other services to be transferred under the partnership deal will include human resources, council tax and housing benefit.
The council says the deal will create more than 750 new jobs in the borough.
The 12-year contract is set to start in April and will see 1,557 of the authority's staff transfer to the partnership, with some going to a new regional business centre.
Walsall's central team of six purchasers may transfer to the centre, a joint venture between the authority and Fujitsu Services. Fujitsu will make an initial investment of £115 million.
Lawrence Brazier, Walsall's procurement manager, told SM: "The partnership provides a tremendous opportunity for purchasing to make its mark. It will give us more muscle and provide greater chances to influence and control expenditure."
Before the outsourcing contract, the department already had plans to implement initiatives such as e-procurement, e-auctions and e-tenders. However, additional resources available through the partnership would speed up the process, Brazier said. But he would not confirm savings targets for the department, or its budget.
He said the streamlining process and partnership proposal pre-dated Sir Peter Gershon's efficiency review in July, which formed the basis of the government's savings targets across all public-sector organisations.
To meet the chancellor's spending review obligations, each local authority has had to submit plans to the Treasury on how they intend to make an average 2.5 per cent savings a year up to 2008. Procurement is one area that must show how it will cut cost or boost efficiencies.
David Smith, public-sector managing director at Fujitsu, said: "We are looking forward to rolling up our sleeves from day one and working in true partnership to transform both the services provided and the borough."