Procurement has a prominent role in the UK election campaign and has prompted massive comment from buyers on the Supply Management
blog. With each party claiming it will make the deepest cuts (or efficiency savings) to reduce the budget deficit, such profile is hardly surprising.
But do the party leaders have a clear strategy of the best way to achieve the savings they all agree are required? With forecast efficiencies of £11 billion (Labour), £12 billion (Conservatives) and £15 billion (Liberal Democrats) you would hope so. But a review of their manifestos reveals a worrying lack of detail.
While the Lib Dems propose “A wholesale review of value-for-money in the public sector”, the Tories go for cutting “£6 billion of wasteful spending in 2010-11” and £12 billion within a year. Labour claims “tough choices” and “further operational efficiencies and other cross-cutting savings to streamline government by 2012-13”. None of the parties has shown exactly how these savings will be achieved.
The manifestos touch on many of the usual topics; “better IT procurement” from the Lib Dems and a “freeze on new major ICT spending” from the Tories along with renegotiating existing contracts. And, inevitably, consultants are in the firing line.
But these areas have been highlighted many times in the past and the general claims do little to instil a sense of genuine new thinking.
So who will make the choices after 6 May – who’ll decide what to cut, what to freeze and when? In previous administrations the procurement brief has fallen to a minister with other responsibilities. But, as CIPS chief David Noble has proposed previously, surely it is time for an individual to be responsible for identifying, delivering and explaining efficiency savings. Not a Treasury minister with a million other considerations, but a minister for procurement to guide the new government. Somebody to achieve what the parties agree is overdue and who will recognise how the profession is a force for permanent, deficit-slashing change and not just a campaign slogan.