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Partners in success

Saturday August 22nd, 2009

By Councillor Stephen Ardley, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing, Waveney District Council

In the second in a series of articles, Councillor Stephen Ardley from Waveney District Council speaks toGO about how it felt to win in the District Council category of last year’s SOPO Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Procurement.

In acknowledgement of its efforts in securing the very best partnership for its operational services, Waveney District Council received the District Council Award at the SOPO Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Procurement 2008.

At the end of June 2008, the Council signed a contract with Norfolk County Services Ltd to form a partnership providing many of its prominent, public-facing services, such as waste management, engineering, cemeteries and burials, parks, carparks, cleansing and street cleaning. As a result, a joint venture company called Waveney Norse was formed, taking over operations on 1 July that year.

Ian Purdom, Service Manager for Procurement at Waveney DC, explains: “The Council had embarked on a major improvement programme and one of its aims was to find an alternative method of delivering the services provided by its Operations and Facilities Section. This would be the largest procurement that Waveney District Council is ever likely to conduct, involving the transfer of around 17% of current employees.

“The aim was to engage a long-term strategic partner that could assist with the necessary cultural shift, as well as delivering shared objectives, continuous service improvements and efficiencies, along with innovation, sustainability and investment.

“The Procurement Section was advised in late September 2007 that the engagement of a strategic partner was required by 1 July 2008. This was a challenging prospect, considering that a procurement of this nature would reasonably expect to take 18 months.”

Approval was given to go out to the market (a first for Waveney), giving the Procurement Section just nine months to form a core team and engage in Competitive Dialogue in time to award the contract for commencement at the start of July 2008.

Mr Purdom continued: “My colleague Debra McMurtry and I worked full-time on this and we were supported by the Operations, Legal, Finance and Human Resources Sections.

“Despite the time constraints, we were still able to suggest and initiate innovative procedures such as ‘dummy run’ tenders (involving a simplified version of the tender documents), which were welcomed and praised by the bidders.

“When we issued the final tender documents very little clarification was needed, which showed that a partnership had already developed and that the documents were both comprehensive and understandable.

“We felt we had achieved a lot in a short time with a small, dedicated core team and we are grateful for the recognition given at the SOPO Awards.”

The success of the partnership has raised the profile of the Procurement Section and demonstrated its ability to deliver large projects. Although the project meant huge pressure, it also brought together colleagues from across the Council who had never worked together before.

It was imperative that this partnership worked for Waveney; both for its staff and for the residents who expect the very highest standard of service delivery. Those involved now know that with good teamwork you can achieve your toughest objectives.

The Waveney Norse team is still very much a part of the Council and we have seen improvements across the board. Without the effort that went into the tendering process, the partnership would have been far harder to achieve. The SOPO Award was just reward for the outstanding service our officers delivered.

With the experience gained from this and other complex procurements the Council now provides procurement advice to a number of other authorities. Waveney is currently leading on a major procurement for the construction of a new complex for Council employees, in collaboration with CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquacultural Science) and Suffolk County Council.

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