Peter Smith highlighted that consultation is taking place on a potential strategy of the Cabinet Office to use the implementation of the new EU Procurement Directives to mandate the use of central purchasing bodies. Clearly there is a desperation to make centralisation work. That desperation seems to be blinding eyes of the believers and closing their ears to the whole 'nudge unit's' approach of making it easier to default in a desired direction.
My own opinion is that centralisation of purchasing is a philosophical position as opposed to pragmatic or evidence based. The aspiration of centralisation is believed to be the answer when decentralisation dominates, and decentralisation is the answer when centralisation dominates. Of course that's an over-simplification but the grass is always greener on the other side. Then again the tried and tested route-map to the 'other side' of central body purchasing has not yet been found.
We know that centralising Fire & Rescue purchasing through Firebuy just didn't work. We also know of the perennial problems of trying to get the 43 police authorities to standardise on something as simple as white shirts has proved too difficult to master. Yet, in the absence of understanding what will make a difference, mandating through legislation is being contemplated.
Since 1786, through the HMSO, central government have been trying to make centralisation work; where is the evidence to suggest they will be able to make it happen this time? Is it more than propaganda? Is there even the evidence that if it were to work, there won't be a cry for decentralisation in the near future?
Wouldn't it make more sense to create an appetite for centralisation before creating legislation. But then, you don't need legislation anyway to enable centralisation - you need a compelling argument and an attractive proposition. However, if you create bad legislation and the legislation fails, then will the courts be used? How will foot that bill?
The whole notion of using the stick of legislation seems absolutely crazy to me.