Cutting IT preferable to slashing voluntary organisations spending

11 February 2011

11 February 2011 | Adam Leach

Local councils should reduce spending on IT projects before stopping funding for local voluntary organisations said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

His criticism of authorities’ response to government funding cuts was broadcast on the BBC 1’s QuestionTime last night.

Maude said: “Some councils, sadly, and I regret it, are actually cutting funding to local voluntary organisations.”

He suggested they follow central government’s strategy, which is to “squeeze our overhead cost, get out of property we don’t need and stop the wasteful ICT projects”.

His comments were in response to a question from an audience member who was concerned that government funding cuts to councils would cripple the state of voluntary services. 

Earlier this week, SM reported how the Cabinet Office failed to announce new procurement rules for ICT to meet its January deadline. The department’s structural reform plan monthly implementation update revealed it has also failed to identify the first tranche of ICT projects to be decommissioned as part of its major projects review.

Peter Howarth, CEO of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government said: “We need to look at ways to work more effectively with voluntary organisations, but the costs of IT projects and running voluntary organisations are separate. Budgets don’t work that way and he knows that.”

David Pointon, procurement manager at PortsmouthCity Council, said councils already have a good record for making efficiency savings. “Local authorities have been almost spectacular in achieving the savings against its targets, historically we’ve performed extremely well,” he said.

Meanwhile Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield has unveiled “painful” decisions about its proposed budget. Following news that £50 million is to be taken away in government funding, the council must reduce its overall spend by £25 million in 2011/12. The procurement team must cut its spend by £20 million.   

Wakefield said the government’s massive spending reductions left him with “no choice other than to reduce services”. “Leeds, like many other northern cities, has received one of the worst settlements in the country and we’re left to deal with the consequences,” he said.

Today, Maude has invited SME suppliers to attend a ‘strategic summit’ at HM Treasury. The event will be used to gather views from smaller vendors about engagement with government over potential contracts.

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