13 November 2006 | Paul Snell
Local authority buyers need to change the way they work to improve council services, the government says.
A report by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said many supply markets for council services are perceived as "sub-optimal" and there was a need to increase competition. It added that greater understanding of these markets would improve services and delivery.
Angela Smith, minister at the DCLG, told delegates at last week's Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government annual conference that buyers must move away from traditional procurement methods and towards "strategic commissioning".
"We need a challenge to the current pattern of services," she said. "This means not only asking who delivers the service, but also the 'what' and the 'how' of service delivery."
She said the starting point for any procurement should be the key outcomes people want to see locally.
Under the system proposed in the report, all council services would be planned and delivered through a "commissioning cycle".
There would be a focus on developing strategies to buy services based on what the users of the services wanted. There would also be an imperative to create more competition in supply markets, as well as involving more and varied types of suppliers.
The report said procurement was currently too process-driven and instead it should take on a broader role, liaising with those developing strategy and with suppliers in the market