Council buyers' future unsure?

25 April 2007
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26 April 2007

The increased use of shared services and outsourcing in local government may mean some buyers lose their jobs.

But those able to demonstrate strategic expertise could benefit from better-paid roles.

These suggestions were outlined by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) in a report this month. It said the increased use of shared services - councils combining back office functions such as HR or purchasing - and outsourcing would gradually reduce the overall size of the local government workforce over the next three years.

It added that councils and their chief executives were looking to shared services and outsourcing for "substantial" efficiency savings. Local government is expected to make £3 billion efficiency savings by March 2008, as outlined by the Gershon review.

But the study also found councils were likely to retain "sufficient strategic expertise" in each area and these roles may be better paid because of their importance.

Joan Munro, national adviser, workforce strategy at IDeA, said the impact on buyers would also depend on what type of contract was agreed for the services.

Peter Howarth, chief executive of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government, told SM he did not believe the increase in these services would greatly affect procurement because of the shortage of skilled buyers.

Yet he added that council chief executives should recognise the need to improve local government buying skills to achieve the strategic expertise they require.

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