Headlines: February 26th, 2004

The setting up of nine regional centers of procurement excellence will boost implementation of the national procurement strategy launched last Autumn. The strategy seeks to change the tradition of individual purchasing decisions by over 400 separate councils, often buying the same thing. The main aim is to enable councils to use their collective buying power to negotiate lower prices or work with suppliers to develop improved products and services to get better value for the 40 billion pounds spent annually. The Procurement Strategy sets out how central and local government, working together with partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors, intend to set about improving local government procurement.The new centres will drive innovative change in procurement by providing expertise to other councils and by building on existing good practice. They will be funded by 3.6 million pounds from the joint Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Local Government Association capacity building fund.

Each centre of procurement excellence will be hosted by an authority that will project manage the centre on behalf of other authorities and take responsibility for managing the funding and employing staff. The centres have already demonstrated best practice through strategic leadership, use of innovative technology, project management, and performance measurement.

Representatives from wider stakeholder groups such as the private sector, voluntary, social enterprise, community sector suppliers and regional development agencies will be involved to ensure openness and encourage healthy debate about best practise in the context of local needs from all perspectives.

The Strategy targets for 2004 include every council adopting a corporate procurement strategy, based on a Best Value or other review. The strategy should be owned by members and senior managers and its implementation monitored regularly. By 2005 every council should be involved with a regional centre of excellence in procurement and project management and by 2006 councils should have adopted the National Procurement Strategy as part of their corporate strategy.