Posted tagged ‘spending’

Buying stuff

November 22, 2010


Putting the squeeze on


Sir Philip Green, the Topshop tycoon and BFF of X Factor’s Simon Cowell, recently wrote a scathing report detailing how the Government could save a fortune if only it learnt how to procure (i.e. buy stuff) better.

The figures that Sir Philip was talking about are mind-boggling and far beyond the scope of anything I, as a relatively junior local government officer, would ever come into contact with. However, like many local government officers I have had to buy things, and many of these times have found it somewhat frustrating.

I might not like Philip Green’s abrasive approach but surely local government procurement bears no relationship to how it works in the private sector, surely.

I should state that I am not a procurement officer and therefore am not privy to all the processes that go into making a good procurement.

However, my experience of the procurement process is that it is mighty complicated.

Big procurement exercises can involve pre qualification questionnaires, lengthy submissions in response to detailed specifications, interviews with the providers, further clarification interviews, visits to local authorities who had already procured the thing we’re interested in before then eventually looking at the pricing. It can take ages and in tight projects can be a mighty pain in the backside.


Channel 4 show us the way

November 3, 2010


Channel 4: Seeing things that aren't there?


Last night I was contemplating enjoying the final of Masterchef when my remote control happened upon Channel 4 news. The trail from the newsroom told me that if we could just hang on until 7:35 (way past Masterchef time) the intrepid news team would reveal true scale of local authority spending.

For those who missed the revelations (you didn’t miss much) you can see the full story here.

I’m not one to paraphrase too much but the basic tenet of the report was that:

1) Staff in local authorities are sick a lot

2) Some councils have tried to address the problems they have with sickness by offering prizes, incentives etc to reward those staff that have 100% attendance rates.

3) Making staff redundant entails making redundancy payments which can cost a lot of money

And sad to say that was it.

I have numerous problems with Channel 4’s ‘exposé’ and I shall try to be as brief as I can so that this post doesn’t become too ranty. So, in order of the most ridiculous:


Pay the going rate or see the talent going

September 21, 2010

My Grandad was a man of few words, but he did once tell me a story which has stuck with me, and which came to mind when I was watching last night’s Panorama piece on public sector pay.  If you’ll bear with me I’ll relay that story here and hopefully it’ll help illustrate a point.

He had a car back in the day when people could still repair them without the aid of a degree in computer programming, but when it broke down once he was flummoxed.  In the end he called out a repair man, who duly turned up with toolbox in hand and took a look under the bonnet.  Without a word he reached into his toolbox, pulled out a screwdriver and tightened a screw – within seconds the engine roared into life.

He then handed my Grandad the bill – £30 (and that was in the day when £30 was a lot of money).  Incensed, good old Grandad demanded to know why on earth he should pay that amount of money when all he’d seen was a single screw turned.  The answer came back that he was only being charged £1 to have the screw turned; he was being charged £29 for the mechanic knowing which screw to turn.

What on earth has this to do with public spending and Panorama I can almost hear you ask?