Silo Smashing for Collaborative Public Sector Procurement

The May 2015 late spring bank holiday weekend saw anti-austerity protests in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens. One cannot help but suspect that it will be the first of many that we will see up and down the country.

The Town Hall is the public face of harsh government-enforced budget cuts and it’s they who must bear the brunt of anger and outrage when services have to cut back as a result.

Manchester was particularly hard hit by the Dec 2014 budget cuts, losing 5.1% of its spending power compared with a nationwide average of 1.8%.

Councils have no choice but to make do and get on with it. The money must be stretched even further. Every thousand pounds saved goes to prop up the core vital services for the vulnerable, the underprivileged and the genuinely needy – every council’s top priority.

One of the emerging paradigm shifts within the public sector in recent years is the trend towards greater collaboration. This can be seen in action in the North West where 10 unitary councils have come together under the banner of AGMA since 2011.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities is a partnership whereby authorities co-operate to exploit ways of improving service delivery by collaborating. They are Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

Another example is Hampshire where the County Council, Police and Fire and Rescue Services now collaborate on a number of back office functions, such as financial audits, printing, HR etc. The Local Government Association (LGA) reckons that savings of about £500 million have been realised in recent years. The trend is growing, which is not surprising as it’s a logical reaction to funding pressures.

Collaboration is not rocket science but enablers need to be put in place. Some joint activities do not require the significant logistical upheavals involved in combining back office function.

One such example is sharing Business Intelligence in the form of information regarding existing contracts across all sectors nationwide. Knowing who else is seeking to renew a service, and joining forces to create bulk purchasing power, is the key to rapid wins for any council or public body manager and procurement professional.

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