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GO Interview – John Tizard

Sunday September 26th, 2010

By Ray Jackson, GO News Writer

John Tizard, Director of the Centre for Public Service Partnerships ([email protected]), speaks to GO News Writer Ray Jackson about the forthcoming Spending Review and the organisation’s plans for the future.

The mission of the Centre for Public Service Partnerships ([email protected]) is to shape innovative public service policy and better public service outcomes though a specific focus on partnership.

The Centre is a policy, practice and research centre which undertakes research and policy development, provides strategic advice and support to the public, third, trade union and business sectors, and comments on topical practice and policy issues.

GO spoke to CPSP Director John Tizard about the upcoming Spending Review and the major challenges he sees the organisation facing over the coming years.

How did you first become involved with the Centre for Public Service Partnerships?

In January 2007 I went to the University of Birmingham to set up the Centre, having previously worked in the corporate sector and before that in the third sector. By mutual agreement with the University, I moved with the Centre to partner the Local Government Information Unit in January 2010.

What remits does the Centre cover?

The Centre provides advice and support to the public, private and third sectors on partnering between and within those sectors. We undertake advisory and consultancy work and research in order to contribute to the development of policy and practice in the area of partnering and public service delivery. We draw on our experience to comment on contemporary issues and make proposals for the development of both policy and practice.

With £6.2 billion spending cuts being made to non-frontline services in 2010-11 and a full Spending Review to be announced in October, what impact do you think this will have on procurement?

The level of the spending cuts that are expected in the Spending Review will mean that there is less money available throughout the public sector system, and consequently there will be less money to spend on procured goods and services.

In the short term, as most public bodies make immediate reductions in their expenditure they will be less likely to look to procure services on an outsourced basis. The lead times required, the cost of procurement and the uncertainty that they have about their future budgets – and indeed their activities and functions – will all be factors to delay major procurement.

However, as the public sector realises that the money is not going to return in 2012 or even in 2015 or possibly for some time after that, the sector will be looking more strategically at ways of further reducing their cost base, and we may see a greater interest then in the outsourcing of services. The risk is that because the overarching driver is reduction of expenditure, we could see a return to some of the worst aspects of the Compulsory Competitive Tendering era, with price-driven procurement and contracting where the focus is on short term contracts and lowest price rather than quality and sustainability.

The Centre has been deeply involved with Total Place, and the opportunities for local partnership working and joint activities between agencies will be very important over the next few years. I envisage more shared services, joint commissioning and joint procurement.

How important do you believe innovative thinking will be in achieving efficiency savings over the coming years?

Efficiency savings on their own will not meet the fiscal shortfall, and the public sector is going to have to take some hard decisions. Innovation and radical thinking is absolutely critical. The alternative will be public sector organisations withering on the vine, as they make salami slice after salami slice and cut after cut. We will see new models of service delivery, including employee and user led co-operatives; social enterprise, third sector and joint venture vehicles; and public sector trading about what it’s no longer going to do and what it’s going to do in a very different way.

Service users and communities will be expected to do more for themselves. What are your views on the role of outsourcing in delivering greater efficiency savings?

Effective, outcome-focused outsourcing can play a key role in transforming services to get better value for money. The risk is that outsourcing may be seen as a means of driving out price in the short term, as with the former CCT regime, which I’ve already warned against. It is essential that the workforce is engaged in procurement and its interests are not forgotten when services are contracted. Short-term contracts do not provide the space or the commercial possibility for the outsourcer to invest in service design or new systems. In the long term this can reduce productivity, because if you are making a capital investment it’s unlikely you are going to make a return in two or three years. It’s more likely to be seven to ten years, which is the nature of much of the current outsourcing.

What can the public and private sectors learn from each other with regards to procurement?

Public sector procurement is generally more complex and tends to be more expensive. It may often take longer than private sector procurement. One of the reasons for this is that public sector procurement is highly regulated. This has to be right but there is a case for a review and reform of these regulations. The public sector could learn a lot from the speed and the intensity of the procurement process in the private sector, without putting propriety or standards at risk. Also, both sectors can learn from each other about how they engage a range of stakeholders in determining what is to be procured, with the focus on outcomes rather than inputs.

The private sector can sometimes be a lot more mindful of the ultimate customer and what they need, when it comes to procurement. Ironically, the public sector is often very good at that in its operational activity, but not always in its procurement activity.

What are the most significant changes that you have seen in recent years in the procurement sector?

In terms of public sector procurement I can recall the days of CCT; it has been a long journey to where we are today. We’ve seen over that period much greater attention given to outcomes, quality, workforce standards and public value; although we are now potentially seeing a reversal of some of that trend as the public sector looks to make cheaper and shorter term buying decisions. I think we’ve also seen much greater professionalisation in both commissioning and procurement over the last ten years, but more remains to be done.

Do you envisage any major changes at the CPSP over the next few years?

We live in a very fast-changing world, particularly in the public sector and public policy. The Centre will continue to evolve to meet the needs of those whom we partner and work with in the public, business, trade union and third sectors. But we are resolved to remain one step ahead in anticipating and shaping the future!

Thank you for speaking to GO.


John Tizard is the Director of the Centre for Public Service Partnerships (CPSP). The CPSP, which he set up in 2007, is a research centre and policy centre focused on public service partnering including Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and public sector agency collaboration, with an emphasis on new models and better ways of partnering.

Previously Mr Tizard was Group Director of Government and Business Engagement for Capita Group plc. He supported Capita’s public and private sector market-facing businesses, its public services strategy and its management of the associated regulatory, legislation and policy issues. He was an executive adviser to the CBI’s Public Services Strategy Board and chair of its Public Services Employment Advisory Group.

He has risen to prominence as a proponent of cross-over between the public and private sectors. Prior to joining Capita in 1997, he worked in the third sector and latterly was Director of Strategy and Policy at Scope.

Mr Tizard has over 18 years’ experience as a county councillor and for eight years was joint leader of Bedfordshire County Council. He has Board experience with the NHS (community care trust), a police authority, a school governing body (as chair), a national housing association, and within the voluntary sector. He is a non executive director of the Social Investment Business and a trustee of NACVA.

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