07 September 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
Councils are "leading the public-sector drive to secure efficiencies", according to Phil Woolas, minister for local government and community cohesion.
In a report reviewing progress two years into the National Procurement Strategy for Local Government, designed to help councils make the most of the £40 billion it spends with suppliers, Woolas said this drive was "underpinned by innovative approaches to procurement".
However, as the strategy period comes to an end he urged local authorities to make a "final push" to achieve the targets.
The report, The National Procurement Strategy for Local Government - Two Years On, published at the end of August, said it expected councils to deliver £1.9 billion of efficiency gains by the end of 2005/06. The results are expected out later this month.
The review added that 41 per cent of councils are now working with their regional centre of excellence on improving procurement performance, a climb from 14 per cent in 2004. A third of councils are involved in creating a shared procurement function; 29 per cent are creating other shared corporate service functions and 25 per cent working on other shared services; and 59 per cent are involved in joint commissioning of services.
Woolas praised the progress but said "there is still room for improvement". Areas for focus this year include sharing best practice on procurement of social care; improving relationships with the third sector; sustainability; and establishing or participating in regional e-marketplaces.