Local authorities across the country should follow Birmingham City Council’s example to help them get better value from the billions of taxpayers’ money they spend each year, a national inquiry has concluded.
The Commons Local Government Committee warned that local authorities could do far more to get good value from the £45 billion they spend each year procuring goods and services.
But the MPs highlighted Birmingham as an example of good practice which other authorities could learn from.
They praised the decision to appoint a dedicated Cabinet Member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement, currently councillor Stewart Stacey (Lab Acocks Green), and said other councils should do the same.
And they also highlighted the council’s decision to join forces with Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and other local bodies such as housing associations, schools and emergency services, to allow them to buy goods and services in bulk and benefit from lower prices.
The committee includes Midland MPs James Morris (Con Halesowen) and Mark Pawsey (Con Rugby).
But the overall conclusions of the report, which followed an inquiry into councils across the country, were largely negative.
The MPs warned that councils needed to improve the skills of staff involved in designing, commissioning and managing services, as well as dedicated procurement officers.
Committee chair Clive Betts said: “Procurement is too important to be viewed as a niche function conducted in back offices. It is central to delivering and managing the services that people rely on every day, from having their bins emptied to receiving social care.
“Without effective procurement local government will cease to operate.
“We need investment now so that staff right across councils gain the skills needed for effective procurement. At times staff, unsure of the needs of local residents and business – especially small local businesses – fall back on wasteful bureaucracy. This has to stop.”
MPs highlighted Birmingham’s decision to appoint a cabinet member for procurement and in their conclusions, aimed at councils nationwide, the MPs said there was “considerable advantage in councils identifying a lead cabinet member and a senior officer who will take overall responsibility for ensuring that procurement is as efficient as possible, and that fraud is pro-actively combated.”
The report also highlighted Birmingham’s procurement body called “Buy for Good”, which the council had formed with other local organisations.