Luke Blair: Buy services only once to deal with CSR

So now we know - or at least, many of you will by the time you read this - just how bad it is going to get in the public sector.

Luke Blair: public sector must find economies of scale
Luke Blair: public sector must find economies of scale
The Comprehensive Spending Review has made clear just how deep the incisions will be, just how far the cuts will range and what the near and medium future will be for central and local government alike.

As for those bodies being culled, considered for culling, or already being dismantled, the real work has already begun.  With many requiring a 60 or 90 day staff consultation period prior to redundancies, those looking to implement savings before the next financial year will have already started this process.

A few days ago I heard Lord Heseltine tell business leaders they’d be in for a bumpy year but it was perhaps not as bleak an outlook as they might think.  But I have also read that the cuts will mean the equivalent of cancelling 21,874 new homes, 738 school projects, 52 hospitals and 246 km of road.

It will all mean a very different world in 2011 and 2012 and, one thing is for sure, the public sector will need to do things very differently indeed, not least in communications.

In Whitehall, among local councils and in the NHS too, there has for some time been recognition that you don’t need to keep replicating the same campaign amongst those public bodies who share similar sectors, geographies or disciplines.

Why have hundreds of websites all offering the same front door to local health services, or public health campaigns on smoking or obesity which are all trying to achieve the same outcomes, running in neighbouring boroughs at the same time?

Why not just buy those services in, once, and use the leverage of scale and reach to obtain best rates?  

Models based on a more centralised model where skills and resources are pooled to achieve more economy of scale and reduce duplication are already being drawn up, not least following the report from Philip Green which revealed that a box of paper can cost £8 in one department and £73 in another.

One might argue that Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, the Property Services Agency, or even COI were once upon a time set up to centralise the cost of services or supplies just like that.

But things have changed greatly since those bodies were created and, in some cases, hived off – not least the tax regime.  

And the same regime which allows Sir Philip to opine from his tax exile should also allow all those resourceful professionals staring a new career in the face to set up new enterprises, be it in communications or in other services, and provide the public sector with what it needs at minimal price variation and at best value to the taxpayer.  Well, those of us paying UK tax, anyway.

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