Can buyers handle the scrutiny on public spending?

15 September 2009
There has been a great deal of conjecture about public spending in the UK over the past week.   Until now, the debate has polarised Labour and the Conservative parties. The leash on attack dog Lord Mandelson was loosened yesterday who claimed the Tories are "foaming at the mouth" to make cuts, while a Labour government would be the "wise" keepers of the public purse. The Conservatives have been open about the need to reduce spending, but leader David Cameron's arguments that the severity of cuts can be tempered by charging politicians more for a bacon sarnie at Westminster have drawn criticism. Many claim it is all rhetoric and not enough realism and Cameron must be more honest about where the Tory axe will fall.  The TaxPayers' Alliance and the Institute of Directors offered both parties a mouth watering menu of cuts last week. It makes brutal reading, but underlines the honesty that may be needed in the future. It is anticipated that prime minister Gordon Brown might even use that fateful word, cut, in a speech today, but he is unlikely to detail when, where and how much. Procurement will play some role in this debate going forward and government buyers are going to come under increased scrutiny from their peers and the public. The Tories say they will publish every public sector purchase over £25,000 to help save £120 million a year and Labour has already ratcheted up its efficiency targets. But are purchasers ready for this level of attention? Are there the procurement skills in the public sector to back the promises of politicians?
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