Share experience to avoid job cuts, council buyers urged

26 April 2011
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Public sector cuts need not threaten procurement jobs if the profession can address more areas of spending, according to a council efficiency leader.

Cuts of up to 28 per cent of council funding from central government over four years and an agenda for sharing procurement functions across local authorities have created fears over job cuts in local government buying teams.

But the drive to collaborate across public sector bodies is increasing – rather then reducing - demand for procurement skills as a greater number of smaller organisations are able to access this expertise for the first time, said Andrew Larner, managing director of Improvement and Efficiency South East (iESE), an authority-led organisation designed to aid public sector transformation.

The organisation has already supported collaborative procurement programmes, one of which has saved around a third in the cost of council wheelie bins through standardisation.

“Our experience so far is not that there are job losses, but actually there is not enough skill in the sector. Sharing it is one way of maximising the use of that resource,” Larner told SM.

“As you collaborate you quickly learn there are things you don’t know and skills that you don’t have. Certainly, if you looked at a strict category management approach to procurement, that’s not generally been implemented in many authorities. Therefore there is a need for good procurement skills and in some cases [public bodies] don’t have those skills in house. Other authorities maybe have gone down that road, are a little bit more advanced and have staff that they can share in doing that,” he said.

Councils were not only able to benefit from collaboration in terms of staffing, but also in terms of what they were buying, he said.

iESE is the regional improvement and efficiency partnership established in 2008 to support authorities, police and fire services in the south east. Directed by its local authority members, it has helped make £160 million savings over three years through initiatives such as joint purchasing.

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