'Savings won't be easy'

9 April 2008
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10 April 2008

Procurement will be central to making long-term savings in local government over the current comprehensive spending review (CSR) period, which runs until 2011.

In a survey of local authority chief executives and senior officers, 69 per cent said improving procurement processes would account for most CSR savings. Local government has a target to save £4.9 billion by 2011.

But according to David Pointon, chairman of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government, it will not be easy.

"The low-hanging fruit has been picked and there now needs to be a more radical approach. Councils need to make deeper savings from sharing back-office services and buying collaboratively."

He added that more training for councils would empower them to embrace technology, such as procurement cards, which could result in large quick wins. Participants in the study, by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Local Government Chronicle, were also asked if they could achieve the goals set out in the CSR without affecting front-line services. Fifty-five per cent said they could not.

Local government minister John Healey said efficiency should not mean making cuts to local services. "Councils should not see efficiency as a one-off challenge or head-count exercise. It is a continuous process of seeking to offer better value."

The government has already pledged £185 million worth of funding to help authorities reduce waste and improve services.

Nick Mann, spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: "It's down to the individual councils how they meet targets, but we would advise them that making cuts is not the same as creating efficiencies."

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