Tag Archives: EU procurement

Coalition will learn lessons from Pathfinder pilots before expanding mutuals programme

By David Bicknell

Given the references to mutuals at the recent Lib Dem conference and some comments at fringe meetings at the Labour Party conference, it might be reasonable to expect that at next week’s Tory Party conference, we could expect some forward thinking on taking the mutuals agenda forwards from a practical perspective.

Two areas that might be worthy of further discussion are procurement including competition and lengths of service delivery contracts, and mutuals financing,  which are issues that those who want to spin out from the public sector – and those that already have done – are now facing.

According to this story reported by Civil Service World, the Government has said it will take close account of what is happening with the Pathfinder ‘pilots’, before rolling out the mutuals programme more widely.

Although Ed Davey’s comments were actually from last week, they still make interesting reading. Civil Service World reports him as saying the Coalition “has an ambitious agenda” on mutuals and there will be “lots of things we need to learn from [the Cabinet Office’s mutual] pathfinders before we can have confidence to roll it out more widely.”

Davey quoted a study from Cass Business School which found that employee-owned organisations perform better in downturns, and highlighted the importance of employee empowerment. “It is not simply about ownership, it’s also about involvement and engagement; just giving people shares isn’t [enough],” he said.

Davey also highlighted the challenges of attracting finance for mutuals, and of helping them to secure service delivery contracts. Some new mutuals will initially need three- or five-year contracts, he said, to allow them to get established and provide “reassurance” for members.

Cabinet Office tells mutuals future is bright

Hammersmith & Fulham Mutual Pathfinder expected to launch in 2012

Mutuals and SMEs remain at risk of EU procurement rules despite government calls for change

By David Bicknell

A recent article on EU procurement has raised the possibility of the risk of a challenge to the government’s plans to make procurement easier for fledgling mutuals and social enterprises still trying to get their feet off the ground.

There are also implications for SMEs battling to gain a foothold in government procurement.

The piece  argues that even though the govenment is trying to change EU procurement laws, that itself is likely to take a couple of years. So, it asks, if the UK government is making a proposal around mutuals now, what will it do regarding procurement in the meantime?

In the UK government’s recent formal response to the European Commission Green paper on the modernisation of EU public procurement policy, the government said:

The UK welcomes the Green Paper on modernising public procurement, and the commitment that proposals to simplify the public procurement directives will be published at the end of 2011 or early 2012. The UK strongly agrees with the Commission’s comment on the need for streamlined and flexible procurement procedures, so that purchasers can obtain high quality goods and services, while delivering value for money for the public purse. Radical simplification is needed for the benefit of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), other suppliers and public purchasers alike.

The main priorities in the revision of EU public procurement policy should be:

To make clear that contracts could be awarded directly for a period of, for instance, three years, to employee led organisations/mutuals, to enable employees to gain experience of running public services prior to full and open competition

Reducing lengthy and burdensome procurement processes that add cost to business and barriers to market competition

Providing more flexibility for purchasers to follow best commercial practice, so that the best possible procurement outcomes can be achieved, and

Supporting measures to enhance SME access to public procurement, where such measures are non-discriminatory and are consistent with a value for money approach.

The full response is available here

The article goes on to suggest that changes should be made to simplify and harmonise ‘dynamic purchasing’ techniques such as framework purchasing agreements, which need to be made more flexible to benefit SMEs.