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17 November 2011 | Angeline Albert
Whitehall’s view of local government buyers must change,
because it is local and not central government purchasers who “lead the way in
best practice”, a senior civil servant said.
Addressing attendees at yesterday’s SOPO annual
conference, John Connell, head of local assets and procurement at the Department for Communities and LocalGovernment,
said: “I hear Whitehall civil servants say that localism doesn’t work and power
needs to be grabbed centrally, but every day I find a positive case of local
government best practice.”
The Society of
Procurement Officers in Local Government (SOPO) event was hosted at the Queens
Hotel in Leeds.
Connell, who travels around the country visiting councils,
said it was about changing people’s perceptions. “I want to put brilliant
council buyers in front of civil servants and ministers to explain what
procurement practices have helped them. Civil servants and ministers always
hear about the worst – what one council has done badly to hit the headlines –
they need to hear more about the best.”
He said, for example, that civil servants say local
government doesn’t give contracts to the voluntary sector when he knows of many
local government buyers who do.
“Whitehall is not perfect. It has to reform. We can turn the
model upside down with local government driving efficiencies in central
As well as putting local government best practice leaders in
front of ministers, he urged SOPO conference delegates to influence their chief
Connell said while things are improving all the time in the
public sector “the fundamental change of everyone delivering best practice
hasn’t improved as much as we hoped”.
At this year’s CIPS Conference, government CPO John
Collington said there were examples of good practice in local authorities that
central government could learn from.