8 November 2006 | Helen Gilbert
Local authorities with little or no procurement expertise can get help from a new advisory service.
The Essex Procurement Hub, launched last week, will benefit district councils that are not large enough to warrant setting up individual procurement units. It will provide advice and guidance on contracts and sourcing suppliers.
Initially funded by the Regional Centre of Excellence East, the hub was set up by Braintree District Council and its partners Colchester Borough Council, Uttlesford District Council, Maldon District Council, Epping Forest District Council and Castle Point District Council.
Angela Smith, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department of Communities and Local Government, told delegates at this week's Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government conference that almost one-third of all councils are now setting up a shared procurement function.
Significant savings are expected through analysing the spend of each member authority of the hub and identifying areas where joint working and contracting will drive down costs and increase efficiencies. The hub is predicted to become self-financing within three years.
Mike Worron, RCE East regional director, described the arrangement as an "efficient and sensible path to better procurement for all councils involved".
"We envisage the project expanding and the contracts developed in the hub being used by a wide variety of authorities across the region and beyond," he said.