31 March 2011 | Angeline Albert
Purchasers at Essex County Council have exceeded their savings target this year by £5.9 million, after achieving a
£38.3 million reduction in costs.
A decentralised purchasing team and a more
knowledgeable group of buyers has helped it surpass procurement’s £32.4 million
target, said head of procurement operations Steve Ede.
of the function, which began in March 2008, involved recruiting new staff with a broad range of experience and
knowledge, with procurement qualifications only one aspect that was considered.
procurement policies were refreshed in 2010 with new guidelines for each
category published online, which included the names of relevant purchasing
contacts for business units to access.
purchasing’s role has been reinforced and is high among other parts of the
organisation thanks in part to buyers being deeply embedded within key business
units,” said Ede.
There are more than 80 staff working in the adult social care department responsible for some buying who report into the council's central procurement team. In addition, there are around 15 to 20 working in children’s
social care and a large number in the environment directorate. As a result, most direct
buying is decentralised. “We now have a more structured approach, and early
engagement with stakeholders means we understand and are in a position to
challenge business units. We initiate the whole process and look at how we
spend and why,” said Ede.
approach to category management was also launched with a lead appointed for
every category and teams set up which included purchasing advisers for areas
such as finance and HR.
The council has a target to save £300 million
over a four-year period by March 2013. Procurement is helping in part by
rationalising the supply base. Vendors for road maintenance have been reduced from nine to one, and the
number of providers for school and social care transport is also being cut. In
addition, by reducing the amount of rubbish sent to landfill over the past two
years, the council has managed to deliver a £8.1 million saving on the £30
million it usually spends on disposing waste every year.
said procurement’s profile as a cost-cutter is being helped by the public
sector’s belt-tightening activities. “We are no longer seen as a tendering
operation but a commercial partner. The need for spending reductions helps in
terms of changing people’s mindsets and driving different behaviour.”