Local government buyers are the best-practice experts

17 November 2011

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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 government.”    

As well as putting local government best practice leaders in front of ministers, he urged SOPO conference delegates to influence their chief executives.

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.

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