Headlines: February 20th, 2009

Councils have been told they need to look at how to make every pound they spend stretch as far as possible. The call has come from the the Local Government Minister, John Healey, following the publication of a review by former Westminster Council Chief Executive Bill Roots who has been looking at the procurement of goods, services and capital items to identify ways to make further savings.

The review of local government procurement, the first of its kind since 2001, was set up to find ways to assist councils to reach their 1.5 billion pound annual savings targets. John Healey said, “In the current economic climate councils need to make every council tax pound stretch that much further, and one way efficiency savings can be found is through smarter procurement practices.”

In his report Mr. Roots makes a range of recommendations and identifies Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships as a key tool in improving practical procurement advice. Mr. Healey welcomed a stronger role for RIEPs and said he expected the Partnerships and councils to act rapidly on the recommendations. A funded implementation plan will also be announced in the Budget as part of the Operational Efficiency Programme.

The Government is also planning to work closely with the Local Government Association, the Improvement and Development Agency and the RIEPs to implement more creative, collaborative and co-ordinated public sector procurement. Mr. Healey added, “In many cases councils are already delivering significant savings but, with everyone feeling the pinch, they must examine every function to see how they can work even more efficiently to keep council tax down.”

Challenging councils to ‘spring clean’ their procurement systems, Bill Roots said, “I believe a champion within local government is needed to lead and co-ordinate procurement efficiency, and Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships are ideally placed to become one-stop shops for expert advice and ‘best buy’ information.”