Brexit offers chance to boost local economies through public procurement

13 Oct 17

Brexit brings with it an opportunity to harness the power of public procurement to revive local economies, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies has argued.

CLES, which brands itself a ‘think and do tank’, has been working with Manchester and Preston councils to redirect public procurement pounds back into local businesses.

Preston Council is now spending £74m more with Preston-based organisations, an increase from 5% of total spend in 2012-13 to 18.2% last year, CLES said.

It is procuring even more from businesses in the wider Lancashire area. At almost £200m, 79.2% of the council’s spending was in the county, up from 39% in 2012-13.

Procurement is one of the main levers the public sector has to build wealth among local communities, the CLES argued.

It said there needed to be a shift in the way public procurement is thought about, particularly in a post-Brexit context when the UK will be free of EU procurement rules.

Matthew Jackson, report author and deputy chief executive of CLES, said there was a sense of frustration among public procurers that current procedures were overly rigid and bureaucratic.

“There obviously has to be emphasis placed upon price, compliance and quality in any procurement process,” he said.

“However, I would argue that there is a real opportunity, post-Brexit, to make procurement more socially responsible and more aligned to the wider local economic, social and environmental challenges facing government and our local areas.”

The CLES’s discussion paper, Opportunities for Public Procurement Post-Brexit, calls for tougher social value legislation complemented by more localised approaches to procurement that anchor institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, can shape together.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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