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13 November 2012 | Anna Reynolds
Buying consortium Pro5 has backed a proposal to implement strategic category management across local government to improve the “fragmented” public procurement system – even though the process has proved controversial in local government.
Speaking at the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government annual conference yesterday, Andrew Smith, chief executive of Hampshire County Council and national lead for the Local Government Association's work on improving procurement, capital and shared assets across England, discussed the three recommendations that form part of a National Procurement Strategy.
He described strategic category management as the “most ambitious” of his recommendations and said the idea had proved “controversial” among some elements of local government, which felt areas such as social care are too complex to reduce into one buying organisation and may conflict with other government policies such as the personalisation of services.
However, former CIPS president Ian Taylor, director of the North East Purchasing Organisation (NEPO), a collaborative buying body for 12 local authorities and member organisation of Pro5, told SM: “Andrew Smith’s agenda is really important for us. There is no current strategy for public procurement in local government – it is extremely fragmented and departmentalised.”
Taylor added that Pro5 – which consists of the Central Buying Consortium, the Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation, NEPO and YPO – will play an active part in implementing the National Procurement Strategy and has already organised its spend into category groups including social services, food and IT. “It is a mission,” he said. “We are doing it now because we think it is a good idea, but we are not doing it enough and not fast enough.”
Currently, £38.2 billion is spent each year across local government. SM understands that under the strategy, savings of 10-15 per cent are expected to be made from more efficient procurement processes.
Smith’s second recommendation is to put procurement at the “top table” while the third, there needs to be one collective local government procurement group to carry out purchasing. He pointed to increased volumes of spend that are now going through Government Procurement Service contracts, which he said are a huge opportunity for the public sector to gain greater value.
Smith also congratulated local government on utilising the value from organisations including CIPS, SOPO and Pro5.