08 January 2004 | Simon Binns
A consortium of local authorities in Essex has joined forces in a bid to improve the county's public-sector purchasing.
The Procurement Agency for Essex (PAE) involves 12 public authorities pooling budgets, as recommended by the National Procurement Strategy for Local Government, recently published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Councils in Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Castlepoint, Chelmsford, Essex, Harlow, Maldon, Southend, Tendring and Uttlesford will team up, along with the Essex Fire Authority, following a recommendation in a study commissioned by Essex chief executives earlier this year.
The PAE hopes to recover its costs in its first year - they are thought to be around £150,000.
Each authority contributes a graded amount dependent upon its budget and income.
The new agency will aim to improve supplier relations, ensure that local businesses get fair access to public-sector contracts and produce guides to better procurement for other Essex councils.
Ken Cole, the PAE's acting chairman until permanent appointments are made later this month, told SM that the new agency is a blueprint for the way in which councils relate to their customers.
"Across the entire Essex public sector we are all buying similar goods and services, such as staff, vehicles, utilities and advertising," said Cole, who is also a partner of the Strategic Procurement Services consultancy.
"What is important is that we do not reinvent the wheel, but focus on the strategic and cost benefits - and prove that what we are doing works," he added.
John Hindley, purchasing and supply manager at the Essex Fire Authority, said he hoped its involvement would lead to further procurement partnerships between fire services.
Cole added that police authorities and probation services had also shown an interest in joining the PAE.
But health services had decided not to join, pending reforms by the health sector's main procurement body, the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency.