Since I joined Rutland County Council there has been a joint team effort to improve the structure and priorities of social care contracting activity with Welland Procurement Unit, a shared procurement service that supports six small councils within the East Midlands, and also more widely across the council.
The new strategic commissioning framework we have established with WPU provides business planning tools and project management processes for the delivery of cost-effective services, focused on local needs. It also helps to address issues collaboratively, from the needs assessment to priority setting and planning, through to developing and procuring services and lastly to monitoring and evaluating them. Most of the work is being done by utilising existing resources through commissioning project groups. As part of this, a procurement strategy has also been agreed and the WPU is instrumental in managing these positive changes. The service reviews led to complex procurement requirements, which need to be properly managed to ensure the council complies with procurement regulations and to secure the best value for money. The WPU is supporting the project groups and helping them navigate complex legislation.
In the past few months, the team has reviewed all contracts and has developed a robust database to ensure a high degree of integrity, accuracy and competitiveness, enabling flexible recording of duration deadlines, values, extension dates and notices. The head of the WPU has also supported this and provided specialist advice.
This is a challenging environment, with reforms in education, health, social care and welfare that affect how we deliver the services. The pressures from an ageing population and an increasing number of people living with complex care needs also impact on how we deliver services. The economic situation is complex and there is greater demand for public health, and resources are reducing sharply.
This is the front-line in the battle to provide services when funding is being heavily cut back.
To address these challenges requires changes to the way we operate. It needs more integrated, joined up and outcome-focused approaches, good local relationships and a willingness to try new ways of delivering services. It will also require looking more towards partnership working and utilising the wider communities.
The partnership with WPU has right from the beginning been based on mutual trust, commitment, regular communication, shared goals and friendship – and it is a true partnership.
The Welland Procurement Unit
I had previously worked in partnership with the Welland Procurement Unit (WPU) on complex projects at East Northamptonshire District Council, including regeneration strategies, tourism and leisure initiatives, sustainable transport projects, community and neighbourhood developments and capital programmes.
The WPU was established in March 2006, and its team of just three staff offers procurement support across all categories and activities to member councils.
The WPU has been heavily involved with developing local procurement strategies. In addition it has provided ongoing advice on case law updates; collaborative procurement; category management, risk management and more.
At the start of last year, the team I manage had no strategic leader and this impacted on the procurement timetable for many contract reviews. The head of WPU stepped in on a part-time basis until recruitment had taken place.
☛ Tom Grozdoski is a contracts manager at Rutland County Council