North West can revolutionise its procurement: Sir Howard Bernstein

Posted On: 16th December 2015

Following his speech at Procurex North Live 2015, which outlined best procurement practice in the North West, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council Sir Howard Bernstein told BiP Solutions how devolution could revolutionise public sector buying.

Sir Howard Bernstein was recently voted the most influential person in local government, along with Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council. The accolade was awarded for the work they have done to bring about Manchester’s devolution deal.

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Sir Howard said: “We’ve got to continue to move forward. What was seen as being at the forefront of procurement five years ago is no longer seen as the forefront of procurement. What we constantly have to do is reassess and address how new challenges can be met in a cost-effective way.”

He continued: “The second requirement is establishing the key set of strengths and opportunities within the wider North West. Obviously construction, facilities and services are going to be important.”

As well as being sector focused Sir Bernstein said devolved authorities should aim to set the precedent of procurement best practice.

He said: “It’s about constantly looking at ways of driving better procurement in our wider public sector reform agenda – whether we’re talking about commissioning personal services, or we’re talking about redesigning public services generally.”

Devolution is important to the economic development of the North West; Sir Howard believes that if the economic conditions are to be created under which the North West business base and wider economy can grow and drive the public sector reform agenda, then there must be a place-based approach to functional delivery.

He added that devolution is about not just empowering communities, but also examining the way in which public services generally are funded, aligned and delivered in those communities.

Sir Bernstein explained: “The ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is a manifestation of how you drive economic growth and productivity in some of our big cities and regions in the north of England. It’s also about how you rebalance the economy, and Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool all want to be at the heart of that process, as do our colleagues in the North East and elsewhere.

“What we’ve got to do is translate very clear strategic opportunities into very clear propositions, and we’re working very hard with different sectors around transport and business. Obviously the Government’s devolution debate helps and so does widening our cultural and amenity base. All of those things are fundamentally important, not just to Manchester but to other city regions as well.”

Sir Howard concluded: “We all still face difficult financial circumstances and hopefully the economy will continue to grow even stronger over the next few years. If that’s the case, then we can move forward within a devolved framework to see even more economic activity take place in the wider region, and in so doing help to rebalance the economy between London and the South East and the rest of the country.”

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