Council buyers aim to smash savings target

7 June 2010

8 June 2010 | Lindsay Clark

South Lanarkshire Council’s new centralised procurement team has committed to achieving £3 million in savings above its official target.

At a time when councils are under pressure to slash budgets, head of procurement Alisdair MacQuarrie – who joined from the private sector – said his new team aims to exceed its task to save £10 million in three years. It plans to achieve an additional £3 million of cutbacks in the first year on an annual spend of around £500 million.

“It’s a target to aim for, to drive through no matter what the [official] target,” he said.

In February this year, the authority formed a central buying team made up of 35 full-time equivalents drawn from purchasers in council departments and some additional recruits.

MacQuarrie said his department was already working to produce savings from more effective category management and by working more strategically with departments.

“The most value comes from helping to identify the specifications up-front, working on the business requirements, and challenging the status quo,” he said. Cost could be reduced by offering internal customers options to reshape contracts by considering different approaches to logistics, storage or administration, without cutting services, he added.

However, for a central procurement team to work, it first had to build relationships with individual departments, he said. “When you are devising a central structure, you need to make sure you understand what customers require. You have to help them deliver their targets and involve them up-front. I met each director or head of service and asked what they require from procurement.”

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