Monday, 17 March 2014

CLG Committee report on Local Government Procurement: Almost deja vu but more ce la vie

Given the Crimea crisis and mystery of flight MH370 it would be understandable if the release of the CLG Committee's report into local government procurement failed to catch your attention. 70 written submissions, 7 oral evidence sessions and a 70 page report - consipracy theorists could have a field day. But sadly, there is little for find within the mysteries of the Committee interpretation of the evidence and their recommendations. To me this was a missed opportunity but hardly surprising if you have read my posts on the CLG inquiry and the Committee failed to heed my initial suggestions of where to look

There are some thing worth holding on to:
We conclude that local authorities' focus on meeting the needs of local communities requires councils to retain control over their procurement operations. Local freedom and flexibility would be lost if they were compelled to adopt a centralised model of procurement such as that adopted by central government in its Crown Commercial Service.
That is unlikely to be welcomed by CCS who then have the problem of addressing the following recommendation with little in return:
 We recommend that the Cabinet Office dedicate resources for building procurement capacity in local government and for ensuring that lessons learnt in central government are translated into effective council action where appropriate. 

I do not recall how many times I have heard that councils do not need any more guidance on procurement - it was a regular area of consensus on conference platforms. So I'm sure many will be delighted that the main recommendations appear to congregate around the production of more guidance. The Committee may feel satisfied that guidance will be drafted, consulted upon, endorsed, published and then training will be delivered on it. That should get us past the next election and just in time for the next round.

But the Committee really need to ask why a comprehensive catalogue wasn't provided of the guidance produced since the original National Procurement Strategy - there's a very long list. If they had studied the catalogue they would then realise that it is not the absence of guidance which is to blame but conflicting political priorities sending out mixed messages, and a lack of embedding change.

I think local government can rest easy, the bogey of compulsion has been laid to rest, the report smacks of deja vu and normal service can be resumed. Ce la vie.

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