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10 July 2014 | Gurjit Degun
Local authorities in England are being encouraged to improve the way they commission public services and manage suppliers in the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) National Procurement Strategy (NPS), which was launched today.
It aims to help local government get better value from the £38 billion spent every year with suppliers, explained Shirley Flint, deputy chair of the improvement and innovation board at the LGA, and independent councillor for North Kesteven District Council.
The NPS encourages all councils in England to engage with the delivery of outcomes in four key areas: making savings; supporting local economies; leadership; and modernising procurement.
In terms of savings, the strategy said councils need to use their spending power “wisely and strategically”. It calls for effective use of category management in key areas of spend such as energy, IT and construction.
The strategy also said authorities should “aggregate spend through effective collaboration or by sharing services on common goods and services without compromising the need for social value”.
The NPS added councils should obtain best value through contract management, implement effective performance monitoring and transparency, have an appropriate approach to risk management and find alternative ways to meet user needs through demand management.
To support local economies, the plan said authorities should include economic, environment and social value criteria in all contracts. It also called for improved access to contracts for small businesses and voluntary, community and social enterprises.
For leadership, the NPS said councils should “speak clearly with a single cohesive voice”. It also recommended procurement should be supported with a councillor champion. “Procurement should be seen as a driver to implement council policy,” the NPS said.
The strategy also said local government procurement needs to “modernise in terms of scope, use of technology and practices and procedures”. To do this, the NPS said councils need to ensure procurement staff are more commercially minded, encourage supplier innovation, adopt e-procurement and take advantage of the “opportunities presented by the new EU directives”.
Martin Reeves, chief executive at Coventry City Council and national procurement champion for local government, said: “As procurement champion my role is to promote the strategy, oversee its implementation and challenge colleagues on progress. I expect colleagues to challenge me in return.
“I will also ensure that local government increases its influence at the ’top table‘ nationally, when procurement decisions are being made that affect us all.
“Councils cannot work in isolation. We need to collaborate on procurement and wider commercial activities and to gain maximum benefit we need to work with partners from right across the public sector. Collaboration will be a major theme for me as procurement champion.”