Belfast’s innovation and collaboration drive

The city council is improving its approach to procurement following a wide-ranging review of procedures.

Belfast City Council is open for collaboration.  That is the message that Head of Contracts Donal Rogan wants to get across to the rest of the public sector. With the formation of the 11 new councils, the city is looking at new ways of doing business.

“Every opportunity should be looked at,” says Rogan.  “Belfast City Council made that linkage in the importance of the commissioning question, through to the procurement process, right through to the contract delivery.

“We also have our plan on the page called Belfast Agenda. This is about recognising Belfast City Council as the capital of the region. Therefore, it needs to be the hub of economic drive and within that, procurement plays a vital role.”

He describes the council’s corporate plan as “very ambitious,” adding that for the third consecutive year rates did not increase. This is not sustainable in the long term and a commercial plan has been created in order to best align funds.

Citing the hurdles to be overcome, Rogan mentions spending less, doing more with less, and offering value for money services, to name but a few. The opportunities coming out of the new EU Directive include lowering barriers of entry for SMEs and the voluntary sector, more freedom to negotiate, and preliminary market consultations.

Facilitating greater SME participation in terms of turnover caps and lotting strategies is another area being examined. For example, Belfast City Council is currently looking at its security contracts and how they are managed.  Within the corporate procurement team, attempts are being made to drive contract and category management and negotiation and commissioning skills.

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies helped to build a local multiplier model to understand the impact of Belfast City Council’s spend, at a political and trend level, on the local economy. For every £1 spent by the council in 2012-2013, £1.76 was generated in the Belfast economy. This increased to £1.83 in 2013-2014.

The model explores the geography of procurement spend – and its wider impact – on employees and suppliers, their re-spend and the benefits of boundary changes to the city’s economy.  A large amount of data is collated in an annual analysis of spend on goods, works and services. This is used to identify trends, potential aggregation across council departments, and procurement compliance. It then helps to inform decision-making and procurement priorities.

Rogan says that while local councils are not part of the Northern Ireland public procurement policy, Belfast City Council strives to reach the same objectives, is open to do business within the sector and is happy to share its story so far with others in a bid to learn from experience.

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