Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Unveiling a Vision of UK Industrial Strategy

Last night I was fascinated by the wonderful spectacle of a conservative minister and a labour shadow minister slugging it out on Newsnight over which of the two had the most effective approach to using procurement and supply chain management as part of UK industrial strategy.  Who could ever have imagined such a scene. Of course this could be viewed as good news for the profession but will it really cascade further so that others can see procurement as strategic?

Anyway, last night was really just the prelude to the Business Secretary's announcement today of his vision of an Industrial Strategy.

A number of the initiatives proposed have been advocated over the last year in this blog, so it would be difficult for me to disagree with them. However, what I to put the spotlight on is the proposed '[Reform of] government procurement to maker sure that businesses have confidence to take long term investment decisions'.  Regular readers will recall that we addressed a similar topic last November, at that time it was revolutionising public procurement'.  So just in case you missed the headline, here's what Vince is alleged to have said:

There is a need to recognise Government’s role as a customer and develop a more intelligent partnership with its own supply chain. This can be achieved by reforming procurement to make sure that businesses have confidence to take long-term investment decisions.
Heaven only knows what reform is planned - in my blog last November I highlighted that the 'revolution' merely looked like going back to the future.  Nevertheless, I recall listening to Vince Cable some years ago speak on how public procurement was an under-utilised tool.  I only wish now I had a transcript of that speech so that he could have used his then impressive manifesto for change as an action plan for today.

I actually believe our MPs on Newsnight, Vince Cable and Francis Maude are all right - we do need change and procurement has a real contribution to make right now. While I applaud the recognition that procurement can make a real contribution I really fear, yet again, that unless we have clear action plans and accountability for implementation, the proposed reform of public procurement we will see no change in a further year's time.  Without that revolution, reform, or whatever we choose to label it, will remain a recycled speech and the procurement profession will continue to be viewed as the weakest link, or should I say the biggest dinosaur. Better again, why not set up an all party working group to look to the past, understand what has been tried before, uncover why the rhetoric didn't move to change of behaviour, then make the appropriate corrections. The stakes are just too high at the minute not to get this right.


  1. Yes, but often the "vision" just means "we'd like to break EU rules - but not so much that we upset other countries and stop them giving UK firms contracts - not that we have a clue how we'd actually define a "UK firm" if it come to it..."

  2. " Hi Gordy Agree. Perhaps, the PM would direct the PASC to call for evidence - by category of service of course! I would welcome this in health and social work services - the latest NHS mess includes Sexual Health Services - but then using the wrong procurement procedure or circumventing process is often called commissioning. The money spent filtering decisions could be more usefully spent on direct services, but then issues of actual life or death can always be reduced to the innate pathology of the patient. So much for patent choice and rights, eh. Good blog. best regs, Alec "