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UK local government chief execs not chasing SME business

Derek du Preez | Oct. 17, 2013
This is in contrast to a series of initiatives taking place in central government

"I think locally there is a great deal of interest, from the point of view of seeing local businesses thrive in the local economy. But I think a degree of care is required, because the bigger contracts can give you the economies of scale," said Wain.

"Larger contractors give you the opportunity of investment, which the use of local contractors doesn't necessarily."

Nonetheless, local government is streaks ahead
Despite the comments coming from local government chiefs, Graeme McDonald, director of Solace, Scotland's representative body for senior strategic managers working in local government, said that in his experience central government has actually led the way with regard to SME adoption.

He said that councils are "streaks ahead" in terms of using commissioning to engage SMEs.

"Some of the changes that the government is suggesting would actually be a backward step for local government, not a forward step," said McDonald.

"It is in the local government's interests, political interests in particular, to have SMEs involved within procurement processes - something that hasn't been the case for central government until relatively recently."

Simon Downing, Chief Executive of Civica, a specialist IT systems provider for the public sector, agreed with McDonald and said that central government should be looking to local councils for examples of how to correct some of the public sector IT failings that Whitehall departments have seen in the past.

"The evidence to date of large scale transformation programmes in government, provided by large international suppliers, is that none of them have worked. What we are excited about is that local government is the benchmark for how things should be done, not the other way around," said Downing.

"You're asking what is being driven out of central government into local government, but you're looking in the wrong direction. It's the other way around," he told Computerworld UK.

"We as a supplier to local government think there's a great opportunity to take our experience of working with local government and transfer that skill and experience to help deliver a significant change in the cost, timeliness and outcome of projects that central government deliver."

Chief execs are the key drivers of change
Civica has also released some research this week, carried out by Localis, which found that 65 percent of local councils see chief executives as the key drivers in re-thinking the way they design and deliver public services. Over half (58 percent) cite time and capacity as the biggest barrier to making improvements to service delivery and efficiency.

Respondents to the survey found that the most efficient technologies to help meet efficiency goals are those which support agile working (86 percent) and moving customer services online (83 percent).


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