Procurement and contract management support

As with other local authorities, central grant funding has been drastically reduced and as such, strategies and activities need to be implemented to ensure Copeland Borough Council (CBC) is financially self- sufficient by 2021. This case study forms part of our productivity experts resource.

Efficiency and income generation

Commercialisation forms a cornerstone of the corporate strategy 2016-2020 focusing activity on generating income and efficiency savings as well as transformation to be a more “business like” council through strengthening how we work.

Procurement and contract management had been identified through the commercial strategy and the mid-term finance strategy as the key areas in which efficiency savings of £2.3 million could be made.

The challenge

The council created and recruited to the roles of procurement and contracts officer and a commercial projects officer. Progress towards strengthening processes had already been made including:

  • E Tendering implemented with CBC now promoting tender opportunities through the North West procurement portal, The Chest.
  • A training needs analysis of staff on commercial skills identifying contract management training as a need.

Work had already started in developing a new procurement and contract management strategy which would support embedding a culture change by introducing solid frameworks in which CBC staff would work.

However, it was vital that CBC progressed this as quickly as possible to support the medium term financial strategy in making savings of £2.3 million.

The solution

In order for a step change to be made, CBC made the decision to access support available through the LGA Productivity Expert Programme. CBC used the LGA national procurement strategy for local government in England 2018 to self-diagnose their maturity level. The report highlighted that both contract and relationship management and procurement were developing areas for the borough’s procurement department.  

The brief given to the LGA was for the current procurement strategy to be reviewed, gaps identified, current practice benchmarked as well as advise on best practice. This would support the objective of developing frameworks (including governance) for both procurement and contract management. Deyton Bell were contracted to carry out the brief over a three month period.

Throughout this time, a positive working relationship developed with Deyton Bell via office visits and weekly telephone meetings to check on progress. This resulted in a report outlining gaps and suggestions on process and communicating these across the organisation. Best practice guides were also included to inform us on how the frameworks and governance could work. Chris Parkhouse from Deyton Bell made a presentation to the corporate leadership team on his findings and this resulted in a useful discussion on the best way forward.

By accessing the LGA Programme, CBC achieved the desired step change and impetus needed to move forward with producing a clear strategy and framework. The following recommendations included:  

  • Deliver a CBC wide change and training programme for all staff 
  • Develop a category/sector management approach – consider combining expenditure/service provision 
  • Rewrite/write contract procedure rules – seek standardisation of the process  

It is anticipated new processes, governance and knowledge will support the achievement of £2.3 million efficiency savings by 2020.  

The impact

By accessing the LGA Productivity Programme, CBC achieved the desired step change and impetus needed to move forward with producing a clear strategy and framework. The procurement and contract management strategy was approved by the corporate leadership team and the executive in November 2018, just five weeks after the programme finished.

This has also led to an ongoing review and updating of the contract procedure rules. These determine processes and governance for all staff at CBC.

Twenty members of staff also attended a principles of contract management workshop (separate to this programme) which re enforced the need for best practice.

Although there are no definitive figures on efficiency savings yet, a recent procurement exercise has resulted in approximately £50,000 saved through better awareness of best practice.

How is the new approach being sustained?

On approval of the contract procedure rules, a managers’ guide will be produced for all staff to access.

Information sessions will be rolled out across the organisation for all staff to attend to understand more on the new governance and processes they will be required to follow.

Further procurement and contract management workshops will also be scheduled to upskill staff.

It is anticipated new processes, governance and knowledge will support the achievement of £2.3 million efficiency savings by 2020.

Lessons learned

It is important to ensure documentation is appropriate for your audience – for example, simple guides that provide information needed for implementing processes.

Updated August 2019

The council has now saved approximately £120 000 on new contracts through effective tendering and negotiation.

The Managers Guide has now been written with plans to roll this out over the next three months through information sessions for staff.

Council contact

Caroline Adams
Commercial Projects Officer

LGA contact

Grace Abel