A big budget for buyers

25 March 2010
All the expectations were that yesterday's announcement would effectively be a non-budget. What we got was the opposite - and in terms of public sector procurement professionals, it was significant. UK buyers are going to be expected to account for huge chunks of the savings of £11 billion a year the government plans to achieve from greater efficiencies over the next three years. Following the chancellor's speech, central government departments spat out press releases saying they will achieve millions by “streamlining” this and  “developing plans” on that. Where there is a smidgen more information on the how, you get terms such as “by negotiating better prices” and “smarter procurement”, “boosting collaborative purchasing” and “improving processes”. All rather vague, but despite this, specific sums of money have been designated as achievable through these means. And besides, is all this new - isn't it already happening? And if not, why not? As CIPS CEO David Noble commented yesterday, more detail is needed. “We wait with bated breath to hear how the government plans to meet £11 billion savings from greater efficiencies,” he said. “The government has to spell out how this will be best achieved to restore public confidence.” He warned against simply cost-cutting without an eye on the long-term implications. Noble also called on the government to appoint a minister of procurement, echoing an appeal made by a group of MPs in an early-day motion a year ago. Such a post would recognise the importance of using procurement policy to support British industry and business; acknowledge the need for a coordinated approach to procurement across government departments; and promote sustainability. It may not be the answer to everything, but procurement has a higher profile and, with such a massive deficit, more responsibility than ever. Perhaps a minister could support that.
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