Headlines: January 29th, 2003

Procurement has a low profile in local government with a short term focus on costs. A strategy to produce a radical change in thinking about procurement is being developed by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Local Government Association. A key aim will be engaging decision makers and winning the “hearts and minds” of members, Chief Executives and officers. There will be a joint publicity campaign with top down messages from the ODPM and bottom up messages from the LGA.The national strategy will identify leading edge experience and good practice that can be shared between authorities to deliver improvements across the sector. It will address key issues such as how to build skills and competencies, engaging council members in procurement at a strategic level and securing a long term focus on strategic procurement. The aim will be to avoid prescription, but rather provide a facilitating and enabling framework with a clear objective to improve procurement performance throughout local government within a reasonable timeframe. The Byatt report published a year ago found that 75% of councils had no procurement strategies and it is hoped that the new national strategy will provide the impetus for developing local strategies.

A working group will take forward the strategy development work and the first draft should be ready by the middle of this year. In the meantime councils are being urged to include a strategic procurement review in Best Value programmes, and carry out a risk analysis of procurement activities.