Ambition and apathy in fight for efficiency savings

8 June 2005
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09 June 2005 | Liam O'Brien

New government figures reveal a mixed picture of local authority procurement savings, with some councils setting more ambitious targets than others.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) data shows wide variation in expected savings for the financial year 2005-06 for councils in England and Wales.

Manchester City Council tops the savings table with an expected total of £3.18 million. It is followed by Birmingham at £2.8 million, Gateshead at £2.54 million, and Rotherham at £2.1 million.

At the bottom of the pile comes the London borough of Brent and York unitary authority with £20,000 of purchasing savings expected for 2005-06, followed by the London boroughs of Bromley at £30,000 and Ealing at £75,000.

A number of councils anticipate making no savings at all during the period, including Cumbria, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Cheshire county councils, and Sheffield, Wakefield and Kirklees metropolitan councils.

Peter Howarth, chief executive of the Society of Purchasing Officers in Local Government, said the variation reflected the differing standards of procurement across councils.

He said there was a link between the councils that have invested the most in procurement activities and those with the largest planned savings.

"It is almost certainly the case that there is a correlation between those that have invested in upgrading procurement and their success in extracting savings. If they have access to good management information about procurement they can make more informed decisions."

The ODPM data has been used by the Local Government Chronicle to compile a top 10 listing of the most ambitious councils for tabled efficiency savings across all departments.

Hounslow comes top, followed by Suffolk, Thurrock, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.

Margaret Gozna, principal purchasing officer at Thurrock, said that the council's third place ranking reflected big changes within its procurement. All support services, including procurement, were outsourced to third-party provider Vertex in April.

"We have ambitious targets and are negotiating longer term contracts with suppliers - four to five years rather than annual - and rationalising our supply chain."


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