Procurement at South Kesteven District Council

In 2018, South Kesteven District Council began an ambitious programme of transformation and modernisation. This case study forms part of our productivity experts resource.

Efficiency and income generation

At the centre of the 2018-2025 corporate strategy are the following:

  • commercial thinking and identifying new opportunities to generate income which will contribute to a programme of economic regeneration
  • growing the local economy through a £40 million strategic investment programme which in turn, will unlock private investment estimated to be worth £500 million over the next few years
  • Improved contract management and procurement

The challenge

  • To achieve a step change in improved contract management and procurement practice and embed into the organization changed attitudes and perceptions. Such activities have a target to generate savings of £250k per annum over the next two years from general fund activities. 
  • To critically evaluate current contract management arrangements and processes to assess their suitability to meet future financial and management challenges, and the aspirations set out in the council’s corporate strategy.

The solution

The council undertook the Commercial Contracting Challenge devised by East of England LGA and SPS Consultancy Services. The challenge provides a short but intensive review of Critical Success Factors (CSFs) or Value Codes (VCs), known to determine an organisation’s ability to manage contracts and relationships effectively.

We used 13 VCs at the council which were anonymously self-assessed by a team of officers responsible for contract management and procurement across the council’s services.

SPS Consultancy undertook a review of the council’s expenditure analysis and the diagnostic results and identified that contract and relationship management, with a few exceptions, is currently relatively immature against most of the VC’s. (The council shares this position with nearly all local authorities and the wider public sector where it is common to find only limited and/or isolated progress.)

The draft report produced by SPS incorporated a range of recommendations linked in to the 13 VCs.

The draft report recommendations were then ranked in terms of priority and target dates set by the nominated officers at a post-diagnostic feedback session which underpinned officer buy-in.

An “effective contract management” training day with a follow-up session has been delivered to support officers responsible for contact management. 

Measurable savings of over £100k have been achieved in the first six months across diverse areas from archaeological services to building repair and maintenance along with improved officer awareness and application of active contract management.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Each of the 13 challenge recommendations have been adopted by an officer team which has responsibility to drive them forward and create the conditions to embed them into the council’s culture and working processes. 

The deputy leader of the council acts as the council’s procurement and contracting champion ensuring the importance of this work is recognised across the council is supported as necessary.

Lessons learned

The challenge exercise provided an independent professional opinion identifying areas of weakness and relative strengths in contracting and procurement. The SPS report helped generate a meaningful internal dialogue within and between service areas and the acknowledgement and recognition that contract management is an ongoing process. The days of “let and forget” should now be behind us.  

Council contact:

Pierre Bibby, Procurement Lead

LGA contact:

Grace Abel, LGA Productivity Advisor