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Sir Howard Bernstein: achieving great procurement in the North West

Thursday February 19th, 2015

Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, will be speaking at Procurex North Live on 26 February at Manchester Central to discuss the importance of great procurement to the North West and how it will be achieved. Sir Howard was recently voted the most influential person in local government, along with Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council. The accolade was awarded for the work they have done to bring about Manchester’s devolution deal. Government Opportunities

Procurement has changed, and will continue to change, and Sir Howard Bernstein will look at what this means in practical terms in his address at Procurex North Live. He is very positive and proactive about what needs to be done to operate effectively in the ever-evolving world of procurement.

Sir Howard said:

“We’ve got to continue to move forward. What was seen as being at the forefront of procurement five years ago is no longer seen as the forefront of procurement. What we constantly have to do is reassess and address how new challenges can be met in a cost-effective way.”

Reflecting on the key components of achieving procurement excellence in the context of the North West, Sir Howard continued:

“The essential point is having complete clarity about what you want, and about what your objectives are. It’s also about being clear about how those objectives are going to be delivered. On one level that sounds very straightforward and easy, but if you’re not clear about your objectives and the particular services you require, then you’re never going to deliver the best outcomes. So that’s one requirement.

“I think the second requirement is establishing the key set of strengths and opportunities within the wider North West. Obviously construction, facilities, and services are going to be important. We’ll be looking to address what that means in the context of the North West framework, and more locally. It’s about constantly looking at ways of driving to better procurement in our wider public sector reform agenda – whether we’re talking about commissioning personal services, or we’re talking about redesigning public services generally.”

Devolution is important to the economic development of the North West. Sir Howard believes that if the economic conditions are to be created under which the North West business base and wider economy can grow and drive the public sector reform agenda, then there must be a place-based approach to functional delivery. He says what devolution is about is not just empowering communities, which is obviously very important, but it is also about examining the way in which public services generally are funded, aligned and delivered in those communities.

Devolution is an exciting opportunity for the North West, but, understandably, there is also a lot of excitement about the prospect of a northern powerhouse. Sir Howard added:

“The northern powerhouse is a manifestation of how you drive economic growth and productivity in some of our big cities and regions in the north of England. It’s also about how you rebalance the economy and Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, all want to be at the heart of that process, as do our colleagues in the North East and elsewhere.

“What we’ve got to do is translate very clear strategic opportunities into very clear propositions, and we’re working very hard with different sectors around transport and business. Obviously the Government’s devolution debate helps and so does widening our cultural and amenity base. All of those things are fundamentally important, not just to Manchester but to other city regions as well.

“We’re looking at transport, and part of that is housing, investment, and having the ability to deliver on the back of the devolution deal a customised approach to housing market requirements in Greater Manchester. It is a very important part of how we drive our housing supply and therefore meet our future growth projections.

“We all still face difficult financial circumstances and hopefully the economy will continue to grow even stronger over the next few years. If that’s the case, then we can move forward within a devolved framework to see even more economic activity take place in the wider region, and in so doing, help to rebalance the economy between London and the South East and the rest of the country.”

The North West is a place of great opportunity. Some of the assets the North West has are globally distinctive, such as science, technology and life science areas. There is still opportunity for significant growth in commercial and professional services, creative and media industries. Sir Howard is focused on how to drive the region’s talent pool and how to create the conditions in which businesses continue to flourish so that the region deepens and widens the diversity of that economic base. Academia has a big role in this. Sir Howard said:

“Universities are at the heart of our innovation agenda. If you look at any world-class city anywhere in the world, you will see a world-class university at its heart. Manchester is no different; we’ve got Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan, and there are other universities in the wider region all playing a very full and active part in that innovation agenda. Whether it’s life science or medical research or in graphene and advanced materials, there will be increasingly globally distinct sectors of growth for the wider region. I think this will be increasingly important over the next decade as we continue to diversify and broaden our business space.”

What does the future of procurement in the North West look like in the coming decades? Sir Howard believes there has to be constant development of more sophisticated and effective techniques for procurement. He says the opportunities for private sector investment in the North West are enormous and, alongside the wider public sector reform programme, the platform for procurement and better value is very strong. It seems the North West has a very bright future indeed.

For the full Procurex North Live 2015 keynote agenda, please click HERE.

Procurex North is FREE to attend for those working in the public, third and charity sectors. There are limited private sector delegate tickets available.

To experience the Keynote Arena and many other features, delegates can book a place at Procurex North Live 2015 via the website


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