20 July 2006 | Paul Snell
A system that allows 22 local authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber to share data on suppliers and contracts has been hailed as the first of its kind in the UK.
The Supplier and Contract Management System (SCMS) is a web portal that allows the councils involved to share information about purchasing processes and makes it easier for suppliers to view tenders.
It is expected to make total efficiency savings of £2.5 million each year.
Tony Wiltshire, director of the region's Centre of Excellence, described the system as a "brilliant example" of councils collaborating to make efficiency gains.
"To get collaboration on a regional basis is really unique. There's no reason why others shouldn't take it on," he said.
Ten councils began using the system in June and the remaining 12 will join in October.
They decided to collaborate following the success of a shared e-tendering system 12 of them have used for the past five years.
The SCMS enables the councils to view approved suppliers, current and previous contracts and to create standard tender documents and specifications. They can also share information on potential future tenders with a view to working with other councils on them. The portal also allows local authorities to advertise contracts.
Smaller councils without their own purchasing department are particularly expected to benefit from this shared expertise.
Wiltshire hopes public-sector bodies such as the NHS, police and fire services may use the system in future, and said the public may also be permitted access to lists of approved suppliers.