To consider progress across the procurement function over the past 12 months and an updated Procurement Schedule.
The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder presented a report which provided an update on progress across the procurement function, a review of activity in the financial year 2019/2020 and a review of the 2020/21 procurement schedule. He welcomed the Council’s new Procurement Specialist, Gillian Flowers, who had taken up the post in January 2020.
The Procurement Team had been busy over the past 12 months supporting the delivery of a large number of procurement exercises for goods and services, the Procurement Schedule for 2019/20 having listed 92. Of these exercises, 45 had been completed, with 14 showing as “work in progress”, two “scope for change” and 31 being carried forward to the 2020/21 Schedule. The Team had led the successful procurements for a number of important projects, including playgrounds, Kendal Markets, consultancy, ICT, Grange Lido and Kendal Town Hall. The Team continued to work closely with the Corporate Asset Manager and the Council’s Property Services Provider (Lambert Smith Hampton) to delivery property-related procurement projects covering servicing and work contracts. This contract would be reviewed later in the year.
The Council’s Constitution had permitted officers to conduct and conclude the contracting processes without further approval providing it was in line with the Procurement Schedule, to be approved by Council at least annually. There was still a requirement to comply with Forward Plan requirements on all contracts prior to contract award. Where a procurement process was over budget then approval would still be required in accordance with the Financial Procedure Rules. Where an officer sought approval for a waiver or exemption under the Contract Procedure Rules this was also included in the Procurement Schedule. An updated Procurement Schedule for 2020/21 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and included some additional procurement exercises to those approved in February 2020.
A Contract Review Board, comprising officers from the Legal, Governance and Democracy Team, the Finance Team, the Support Services Case Management Team and the Customer and Commercial Services Department had been formed. The Board’s work had included identifying contracts impacted by Covid-19, with reports to Cabinet as required, the review of the use of certain frameworks to ensure value for money and working closely with officers from across the Council to understand requests for waivers and exemptions and to limit their use wherever possible. The emphasis of this Team was to focus on value for money.
A Commissioning Strategy had been prepared and approved by Council in July 2020 which would complement the Procurement Strategy. The Procurement Specialist was currently reviewing the Procurement Strategy in line with the Commissioning Strategy as a golden thread, and was also seeing how it fitted into the procurement guidance within the Constitution.
The report referred to challenges in the future. As the UK left the EU, it was envisaged that there would be changes to the Procurement Regulations, initially in terms of thresholds, but eventually in terms of regulation and accountability. The Public Contracting Regulations 2015 would stay in place in the mean-time. The Council’s procurement portal, the Chest, was one of those that would be compatible with the Government’s replacement for OJEU, so any threshold changes regarding advertisements for completion would be automatically put in place.
Internal audit had flagged up some need for improvement in contract management in the Council. With new staff and staff undertaking new roles, there were a number of staff that had not previously had procurement or contract management experience, so a training package was being put together as either a refresher tool or as an introduction to the new duties. Once again, this task had been delayed by Covid-19.
Covid-19 has been a big influencer on the markets this year and would continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Contractors had been seen to go into administration and the uptake for new business was down as suppliers fought to maintain their existing business.
The Council was looking for savings and value for money exercises in order to reduce its deficit over the next few years. Procurement was in a position to recommend routes to the market which could provide those savings, in particular where there were savings from economies of scale and compelling competition. There were areas where Procurement could provide additional support and advice, such as the use of Agency staff, where savings could be anticipated.
Members acknowledged the challenges faced by the Council in terms of procurement in the present climate. The Leader expressed gratitude for the efficient work in relation to procurement, pointing out that the Procurement Schedule provided useful information for individual Ward Members.
Two questions were raised. Firstly as to whether there had been a reduction in the use by the Council of agency staff, and secondly seeking clarity as regards the Town View Fields Out of Hours Contract item within the Procurement Schedule and as to what type of post this was given the problems of drugs and alcohol at the site. The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder informed Members that the Council was striving to reduce the number of agency staff, although pointed out that services had to be delivered. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) undertook to ensure that a full written response was provided in relation to both questions.
The Leader asked the meeting if the motion was agreed. There was no dissent.
RESOLVED – That
(1) progress across the procurement function over the past 12 months be noted; and
(2) the updated Procurement Schedule attached at Appendix 1 to the report be recommended to Council for approval.
Reasons for Decision
Procurement is a key element of ensuring excellent, value for money services.
The update on progress across the procurement function and the review of activity in 2019/20 is a historic review for noting.
The review of the 2020/21 procurement schedule is in line with the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules and enables officers to ensure that contracts are awarded both promptly and transparently.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
An annual update to Cabinet does not take place. However, falling under the portfolio for Finance, it is vital that the procurement function continues to be driven and supported by Members and senior managers. This will result in a more accountable and focussed procurement function delivering positive outcomes financially and in the quality of Council services.
The Procurement Schedule is not updated. This reduces the efficiency of the Council by requiring individual reports and decisions for tender exercises. This also increases the time taken to let contracts. Also, the Council fails in its statutory duty to report to the public procurement activity.