17 November 2005 | Helen Gilbert
Procurement "champions" introduced by Northamptonshire County Council have helped
the purchasing department save more than £1 million in its first year.
In December 2004 the council, which had been dealing with almost 400,000 invoices a year, set up a 12-strong procurement team to achieve cost savings and streamline invoicing.
Since its creation, the department has saved £1.1 million using methods such as reverse auctions, government procurement cards and "purchasing champions".
There are 13 champions in areas including community services, children and young people, and IT. As well as their day jobs, champions raise colleagues' awareness about the benefits of procurement.
Ian McPherson, head of procurement, said the development of their role has been a major success. "The senior officers in each service department are able to act on behalf of chief officers which has enabled us to spread the procurement 'gospel' across the authority."
He said the support of the executive board and councillors has been crucial. One example is the centrally-funded CIPS training for non-purchasing staff with buying responsibility.
Savings have also been made in routine areas such as telephone calls, where a change of supplier cut costs by more than 40 per cent, while reverse auctions for agency staff has saved £500,000.
McPherson added: "Both of these major contracts have drastically reduced the spend, managed the market and cut the number of invoices and suppliers - both using reverse e-auctions.
"The procurement team has achieved savings of £1.1 million in year one and we are on track to make an additional £3 million of real savings this year."
The procurement department has a three-year savings target of £8.7 million.