Public sector resourcing - Procurement Pledge must balance cost-control with quality and provide genuine opportunities for SMEs
You may have seen last week that the Government has launched a new ‘Procurement Pledge’. This outlines a number of key promises on how the Government intends to buy goods and services in the future – including simpler, more streamlined procurement processes to give all potential providers easier access to contracts in the public sector. These are positive messages but we will be seeking feedback from REC and IRP members in terms of how any changes are likely to play out on the ground.
Our line is that Government must ensure that new procurement procedures do not sacrifice quality and shut out small firms in the drive to cut costs. The specific nature of supply markets, like that of the recruitment services, has to be acknowledged. Supplying locum doctors and other staff to a hospital is different to supplying stationary - each placement requires extensive work to source, vet and place suitably skilled staff. There can be no ‘bulk buying’ when it comes to recruitment services.
From the care sector to teaching, the quality of the people working in the public sector matters which is why we are seeking to move the debate away from seeing recruitment only as a cost to be slashed. Government bodies are acknowledging the central role of agency staff in the public workforce—recent initiatives such as that between the Teaching Agency and REC Education on returners’ to teaching are testament to that. However, much remains to be done and we will carry on reiterating our message that any new procurement procedures must avoid jeopardising safety and sustainability of supply and must provide viable opportunities for SMEs in line with Government commitments in this area.
One of the core messages of our ongoing public sector resourcing campaign is that specialised recruitment agencies can play a vital role in ensuring the public sector has the flexible and skilled work force required to deliver effective front-line services. We are making some progress and it is good to see that the Government Procurement Service (GPS) is genuinely committed to engaging with the REC and directly with our members.
The goal of the Procurement Pledge to safeguard sustainable economic growth through efficient and effective public procurement. The rhetoric on helping SMEs access public procurement opportunities is positive but the next few months will prove crucial in determining whether there is real substance to this.
Procurement is one of the biggest issues facing our industry and we would welcome your views on public sector resourcing and how agencies can engage more effectively with public procurement procedures. Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.