Report highlights need for better procurement and new skills in the public sector

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Interesting report from the Institute for Government think-tank arguing that there are major skills shortages within public bodies – particularly commercial and commissioning skills.

The need to continue ensuring that the right skills and competencies are brought in in order to drive public sector reforms and deliver key services is one of the core messages of our ongoing public sector resourcing campaign. The skills ‘penury’ flagged in today’s report also underlines the importance of specialist contractors and interim managers within the public sector and the urgent need to push back on some of the proposals within the government’s ‘controlling persons’ consultation.

In the words of Tom Gash, one of the report authors: “Those involved in delivering these reforms are working hard but many in Whitehall are not yet confident they can ensure reforms improve rather than undermine service standards. Unless Government addresses some of these problems quickly, there is a risk that some of the mistakes of the past will be repeated.”

The Institute for Government also makes some key points with regards to procurement that will resonate with recruiters currently supplying into the public sector. One stand-out comment in the report is that “those writing government contracts often concentrate too much on securing a good price upfront rather than over the life of the contract”. The need for framework agreements to balance cost control priorities with quality, safety and sustainability of supply has been a key REC message to government and procurement departments.

One encouraging sign is that the Cabinet Office appears to recognise the issue. The public service reform plan which was published earlier this summer confirmed plans for a capabilities review to identify areas where skills are insufficient. However, some of the proposed measures appear to be limited to more training and increasingly centralised procurement procedures.

Looking ahead, there are three key messages that we will continue to take forward. First, there is a real need to look at how recruitment services are procured and to raise awareness of our sector amongst procurement professionals. Our end-goal must be to ensure that frameworks are sustainable and commercially viable for suppliers. Second, there is no doubt that bringing new skills into public bodies will be crucial in order to deliver genuine reform. Finally, the contribution of contractors and interim mangers within the public sector is something that should celebrated rather than decimated through ill-thought out regulations such as those outlined in the ‘controlling persons’ consultation.

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