Councils to use more central deals

18 November 2004
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18 November 2004 | David Arminas

Local authority purchasers are expected to make greater use of central government framework agreements as they seek efficiency savings, according to a major government review.

The report, Delivering Efficiency in Local Services, is the awaited blueprint for greater collaboration among local authorities as they strive to meet chancellor Gordon Brown's savings target of £6.45 billion on their total annual £86 billion budget by 2007-08.

In his July spending review, Brown said that each local authority would be expected to save at least 2.5 per cent of its budget through more efficient delivery of services and procurement (see News, 22 July).

All savings would be ploughed back into front-line services and the service cuts would not count as savings, notes the report, which is from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Authorities are being called on to make greater use of consortia and a taskforce will be created to help authorities struggling to implement e-procurement.

The Highways Agency will be available to improve local authority construction procurement. Other steps include framework agreements and the creation of purchasing consortia specifically for construction.

Tim Byles, chief executive of Norfolk County Council and a government-appointed "procurement champion", told SM the report was good for procurement and good for authority chief executives.

"I don't think we should stop at local authority procurement," said Byles, who is also secretary of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives.

He identified opportunities to improve procurement through aggregation and partnership across the public sector, including police, health and education.

"The magic of this for local authority chief executives it that they can invest savings in front- line services," he said.

The report outlines a greater role for the nine local government procurement advisory bodies, the regional centres of excellence.

Originally, they were to offer advice only on buying goods but now will provide advice on major procurement projects, issues and services from HR to finance, as well as co-ordinate work between consortia, authorities and other organisations.

Schools procurement, from books to buildings, will get a boost from a national centre for schools procurement to be set up by the Department for Education and Skills. It will work closely with the regional centres.

The Audit Commission will assess how savings are to be quantified and will work with the University of Birmingham on a study of measurements among 60 authorities.


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