27 February 2009 | Martha McKenzie- Minifie
The first major review of local government buying in the UK in eight years found a lack of procurement and commissioning skills in local authorities.
The Review of Arrangements for Efficiencies from Smarter Procurement in Local Government, by former Westminster City Council chief executive Bill Roots and also known as the Roots Review, called for the urgent appointment of a national purchasing "champion".
It also made 26 recommendations for local authorities.
Peter Howarth, chief executive of the Society of Procurement Officers, welcomed the report and the "acknowledgement of improvements in the last couple of years". But he said it had too much emphasis on cost savings, while neglecting the wider need to improve demand and contract management.
The Roots Review follows the Comprehensive Spending Review that tasked UK councils with achieving procurement savings of £2.8 billion in three years (News, 18 October 2007).
The new report said savings could be made with better co-ordination between councils, and pushed for a procurement champion to be appointed for at least two years.
It added the nine regional improvement and efficiency partnerships could be bolstered to communicate best deals.
In an open letter to John Healey, minister of state for local government, Roots wrote: "The scene is one warranting a clearer overall sense of direction and co-ordination."
Healey said funding to implement recommendations would be announced in the Budget on April 22. "In the current economic climate councils need to make every council tax pound stretch that bit further," Healey said.