12 November 2009 | Steve Bagshaw in Manchester
The future for UK local authority purchasers will become even more difficult if the Conservatives win next year's general election, a senior council leader has said.
Speaking at the annual Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government (Sopo) conference yesterday, David Parsons, leader of Leicestershire County Council - and himself a Tory - said: "What I am hearing from the Conservative party is that, if anything, the pressure on local authority buyers to find efficiency savings will be worse if there is a new government next year".
Parsons, who acknowledged he would not be part of any future Conservative government, emphasised the profession would "constantly need to educate [politicians] about the public sector and tell them that it is not possible to cut money and deliver public services".
While extolling the virtues of local authority procurement - "the most efficient in the public sector" - and praising the growth of collaborative buying across councils, he described how a 1 per cent cut in construction spend nationally would save £700 million a year. But added that he "does not have a figure" for the total savings procurement could bring local government.
In the past two years alone, local authorities have saved £1.7 billion as part of the government's efficiency effort (news, 30 September 2009).
Meanwhile, at the Sopo awards gala dinner last night, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council won the award for the best single-tier (unitary) authority, and Cumbria County Council picked up the prize for best county council.
The district/borough gong went to a joint submission from Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands, the regional improvement and efficiency partnership, and the district councils of Bromsgrove, Malvern Hills, Wychavon, Wyre Forest and Staffordshire Moorlands, as well as Redditch Borough Council and Worcester City Council. The stage was packed for that presentation.
In the "other" category the London Fire Brigade was successful, while the Pro5 consortium - a group of buying organisations - won the education award.