Bates Wells Braithwaite argues, in a new report, that a combination of unimaginative procurement practice and overly cautious legal advice is holding back the commissioners of public services.

The report, The art of the possible in public procurement, claims that procurement and legal teams at many commissioning authorities are preventing commissioners of public services from innovating. In fact, procurement regulations provide commissioning authorities with a great deal of flexibility to achieve the outcomes they seek for their communities.

“Commissioners tell us that procurement has become the tail wagging the commissioning dog, often in an unholy alliance with equally cautious legal advice” said Julian Blake, partner at BWB. “Process has taken over purpose. We believe that the primary focus on purpose needs to be restored. In a time of austerity, the only way commissioners can save money, meet increasing demand and improve services is to do things in a different way – and procurement regulation actively supports this.”

The report then goes on to set out in plain English some of the flexibilities available to commissioners, how to unlock them and some of the practical things that can be achieved within the scope of the law.

The report was developed in a partnership where BWB brought legal expertise, social enterprise transport operator HCT Group brought the plain English writing style and the Bold Commissioners and Social Enterprise Public Service Supplier networks at E3M brought real-world examples of authorities that had used the full scope of the regulations to do innovative things.

Dai Powell, HCT Group Chief Executive, said “All too often, the innovative commissioners we work with find that they are held back by people saying ‘you can’t do that because of procurement law’. Usually, there is actually nothing to stop them and the law is supportive of their ambitions. We wanted to help – and together with our partners – we have created a publication that commissioners of public services can use to drive change in their authorities.”

Jonathan Bland, founder of E3M Bold Commissioners said, “We need “bold solutions” to the challenges that face us today. E3M is proud to support this publication that encourages all commissioners to be bold in achieving outcomes for their communities and won’t let poor interpretation of the rules get in the way”.

The art of the possible in public procurement is available for download here.

To read coverage of the report's launch in Local Government Lawyer, please click here.

Posted on 11/10/2016 in BWB News

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