08 June 2006 | Paul Snell
Cumbria County Council expects to save £8 million over the next six years after replacing its paper-based purchasing system with an e-procurement tool.
The authority, which has 21,000 suppliers, also hopes the system will give it more information about how much it spends and with whom. This will allow it to set up fewer, larger contracts.
However, it does not want to do this at the expense of local suppliers. The council believes that of the estimated £134 million it spends on goods and services, around 70 per cent goes to local companies.
Alan Ratcliffe, head of strategic and commercial procurement at the authority, said: "There is a risk that small and medium-sized enterprises could be squeezed out. We will use the data to look at the whole supply chain and ensure there is no impact on the local economy."
The council decided to implement the Proactis system after trialling it in the waste management department and at the port of Workington for four months from December 2005.
The trial allowed the council to map its procurement processes in different areas and design a system around its needs.
Cumbria hopes all its departments will be using the e-procurement tool by November 2007 and that it will be integrated with a new financial management system.
It added that the new system will provide long-term benefits to the local economy, too.
"The benefit to local suppliers will be that they can receive accurate orders more quickly," Ratcliffe said.