The importance of procurement for Scotland's councils
It’s no secret that Scotland’s councils are having to face up to some tough choices as the impact of reducing budgets takes its toll.
With the most recent figures from the Scottish Government suggesting that our council leaders will have even less to spend in the coming years, it has never been more important for politicians and officers to look at ways of maximising budgets and getting the most out of the resources at their disposal.
As the centre for procurement expertise for local government, Scotland Excel has a vital role to play.
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We were first established in 2008 with a remit to work with our members and our suppliers to raise the standard of public sector procurement, secure best value for our customers and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of procurement in Scotland’s public sector.
We now handle a portfolio of contracts worth more than £700 million, delivering savings of more than £20 million a year to councils as a result of our knowledge and understanding of Scotland’s public procurement landscape.
But what a lot of people don’t realise is that improved procurement practices can help to deliver a whole different variety of benefits and that it’s about much more than just the bottom line.
These benefits are many and varied and it’s why we placed them front and centre of our new corporate strategy - Shared Vision, Shared Success – which marks the next stage in our procurement journey.
Whether it be through encouraging employers to pay the living wage, promoting apprenticeships or giving back to the community, Scotland Excel is working with councils across Scotland to deliver procurement frameworks that help to realise the wider benefits that public sector procurement can achieve.
Since joining as Director of Scotland Excel last year, I’ve been fortunate enough to see many of the benefits and their impacts on communities at home and abroad.
For example, in developing the first national collaborative framework specifically for the provision of agency workers in the social care sector, we recognised the importance of paying care agency workers fair wages in a market where staff are difficult to recruit, while ensuring councils get the best value for money.
By evaluating on the supplier’s profit margin only, our framework allowed suppliers to focus on the value they could deliver to councils without compromising the rates paid to agency workers. The framework provides a range of pay rates, enabling every council to engage agency workers whilst paying the Living Wage.
Through Scotland Excel’s frameworks, we have supported the creation of over 200 job and apprenticeship opportunities, such as with The Furniture Service, an East Kilbride-based business providing employment and apprenticeship opportunities for young school leavers.
Not only do these contracts help to support a wide range of SMEs (over 70 per cent of our suppliers are small to medium sized businesses) they also have the power to equip the next generation of Scotland’s workforce by providing them with the opportunities to learn new skills and forge promising careers for themselves.
But it’s not just here in Scotland that the benefits are felt. In Malawi – a country with which Scotland has a flourishing relationship – our contracts with a major food supplier have allowed them to support a Scottish based charity – Mary’s Meals – in their efforts to provide children with school meals and use education as a route out of poverty.
So while procurement may not seem like the most glamorous of topics – it’s important to remember that the benefits can be much wider than they initially seem.
We’re committed to working with our suppliers and stakeholders across Scotland and the rest of the UK to deliver on our strategy, which is all about making the best use of every penny of public money through the quality of our contracts and the social benefits they deliver.