Staffordshire council sets up public/private partnership

23 January 2012

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23 January 2012 | Adam Leach

Staffordshire County Council is bringing in a team of private sector buyers to help its internal team make £15 million savings over two years.

Deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and transformation Ian Parry told SM that the council will partner its internal procurement team and the external group by the start of April. The authority agreed to go forward with the idea at a meeting on 19 January.

Asked how the external buyers will fit into the existing procurement operation, he told SM: “It’s more likely that they’ll be working alongside us because they will need to draw on internal knowledge so there will be a level of integration.”

Parry added that he can also see an opportunity to broaden the experience and skills of the internal team: “There may be people in our team that we want to embed in their office, if the partner was to agree that with us.”

He said he recognised the good work carried out by the internal team, but believes that by bringing in a private sector partner the council will be able to move things on a step. Key to this will be paying the external team by results: “The more successful they are, the more they will earn. If they save us ten million quid, they’ll get part of that ten million quid.”

Asked whether there was any chance that the internal procurement team would be incentivised in a similar manner, he said it had not been discussed.

Parry indicated, that if successful, the council might look to expand the partnership programme to work with other local government bodies. “What we’ll possibly want to do is look at other organisations in local government that might want to join our procurement partnership to get greater savings.”

Commenting on the move by the council, Peter Howarth, chief executive of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government (Sopo), told SM that collaboration between public and private sector buyers is not always a success. “I don’t think it always works because people often get very gung-ho, thinking they can buy things better than the public sector, but when they try, they find they can’t cut through the red tape.”


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