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Q&A with Peter Schofield, AGMA Procurement Hub Programme Manager, Trafford Council

Tuesday March 11th, 2014

Tell us about your role in managing collaborative procurement programme for the Greater Manchester Authorities.

My role involves facilitating collaborative working in procurement across the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA). AGMA comprises 14 local authorities as well as the police, the fire and rescue Service, Transport for Greater Manchester and the waste disposal company, so the range of contracts is quite diverse and not all contracts are applicable to all organisations.

Peter Schofield

Peter Schofield

The AGMA Procurement Hub operates on a ‘hub and spoke’ principle – generally one of the member authorities will lead on a procurement exercise on behalf of the other members and the Procurement Hub supports by taking on the additional work associated with co-ordination of the collaborative element. As the number of contracts grows and the resources available in member authorities become more stretched, the Hub has recently taken on more of the actual delivery of contracts.

The Hub’s work is made up of three broad strands:

  • Renewing expiring contracts – ensuring that there is still a requirement and taking account of changes in the market over the life of the expiring contract to deliver continued benefits of collaboration.
  • Identifying and realising new collaborative opportunities – we use our own spend analysis tool that provides visibility of each member’s spend to identify common suppliers or common requirements for contracts to build the business case for a new collaborative contract.
  • Supporting the delivery of other AGMA initiatives – there are a number of groups across AGMA that are involved in collaborative ways of working (for example, ICT, HR, social care etc) and there is also a Greater Manchester Public Services Reform programme that is delivering new ‘cross-sector’ ways of delivering services. The AGMA Procurement Hub works with these groups to identify the procurement and commissioning related issues as new ideas are discussed and developed, so that the procurement phase of delivering a project generates the required return on investment.

The Procurement Hub also has a role in linking with other regional and national initiatives to disseminate best practice to the AGMA authorities. This role involves, for example, membership of the National Advisory Group for Local Government Procurement (run by the LGA) so that we can link into the hot topics being discussed nationally and broker communications with the procurement community in the NW region. Examples of current hot topics include the new EU Directives, the 2014 National Procurement Strategy and adopting a consistent approach to Social Value, tackling procurement fraud and embedding best practice in contract management.

What are the main benefits of collaborative procurement?

The most obvious benefits of collaborative procurement are around aggregating volume to achieve better outcomes in terms of price, delivery or terms and conditions by applying leverage to suppliers, but there are other benefits to the way the AGMA arrangement works.

There are significant but difficult to measure cost avoidance benefits for each participating authority. By collaborating with other similarly minded organisations, it is also possible for each participant to benefit from the innovative and creative ideas generated by others.

Other benefits include:

  • Reduced duplication of effort – no need to invent multiple wheels
  • Sharing capacity to deal with contract management and renewal
  • Providing visibility of contracts and new ideas to all in AGMA
  • Providing visibility of AGMA’s Collaborative approach to multiple partners and stakeholders in terms of SME engagement, added value from procurement etc
  • Providing a single point of contact to ensure that the message is consistent and is not eroded by staff ‘churn’

How important is consideration of the social, economic and environmental implications of procurement decisions in a local government setting?

This is a vital area for all and even more important in areas of high social deprivation where councils are in a position to provide civic leadership and a stimulus to both the local economy and to the voluntary and social sector.

It is difficult to balance this with achieving savings to meet the requirements of the austerity measures. Collaboration enables a creative approach to developing frameworks that provide opportunities for social, economic and environmental benefits that is consistent across the region whilst achieving savings required to meet the budget reductions.

What are the main demands and challenges facing local government procurement?

The most significant current pressures on procurement teams come from the requirement to deliver savings and the pressure to balance this against the need to deliver improved social outcomes.

For example, the reduction in headcount in local authorities makes it difficult to ensure a connection between what procurement teams are including in contracts – such as local job creation or training opportunities – and the regeneration teams and other agencies that can provide potential employees with the necessary skills.

Expectations have been set as a result of initiatives such as the Social Value Act, the Lord Young Report and the early adoption of the new EU Procurement Directives. Local government procurement must ensure that these expectations are embraced through smarter ways to deliver improvements.

Bodies that represent the private sector, such as the Chambers of Commerce and the CBI, view all public sector procurement as a single entity and often do not recognise the improvements that have already been realised in local government.

There are some significant opportunities to use initiatives such as the Green Deal or the Public Services Reform programmes to stimulate the local economy and support voluntary sector or emerging and new industries.

What does the future of local government procurement look like?

With the future apparently looking grim for local government with budget reductions set to continue for another five years, fundamental changes to ways of working and innovative and creative approaches will be required to deliver services in future.

This is likely to lead to an increase in collaboration and joint service units between authorities as well as shared services, but the required level of savings will only be achieved with more radical change.

New operating models are being developed, which will be expected to deliver service improvements and savings though having freedom to behave more “commercially” and take on some of the risks.  These arrangements must be carefully designed if they are to achieve the required outcomes and there are significant opportunities for local government procurement professionals to play a leading role in the design and implementation of new ways of working.



About Peter Schofield

AGMA Procurement Hub Programme Manager, Trafford Council

Peter’s current role is managing a collaborative procurement programme for the Greater Manchester Authorities which involves trying to achieve value for money solutions through joint working whilst also taking account of the social, economic and environmental implications of procurement decisions.  Peter has worked in Local Government for over 30 years. Initially as a Chartered Civil Engineer, then a senior service manager at a large District Council with responsibility for a range of technical and front line services before becoming involved in procurement and efficiency related programmes.  Peter has worked on collaborative programmes since 2004, originally engaged by the North East Centre of Excellence to support and develop procurement and efficiency capability, then for the NE RIEP delivering the Construction & Asset Management, Waste & Environment and Climate Change Programmes.

Peter Schofield will present ‘Doing Business with Local Government’ at the GO Public Sector Supplier Summit on 29 April 2014 at Manchester Central Exhibition Centre.

For tickets to this event, BOOK HERE.


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