Improving procurement in further education colleges in England: forty-first report of session 2006-07, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence

The 2004 Gershon Efficiency Review proposed procurement as one of the main sources of efficiency savings in the public sector. The Learning and Skills Council, which funds England's 384 further education colleges, estimates that from an annual procurement expenditure of £1.6 billion, colleges could make savings of £75 million by March 2008. The savings made by colleges would be available to be redeployed into front-line services for learners. Until recently, many colleges have tended to treat procurement as a low priority and have not taken advantage of modern procurement methods such as purchasing consortia and procurement cards. They now need to modernise their systems so as to maximise the resources available for learning. Colleges increasingly have staff who are capable of managing procurement, but they are too often let down by the low quality of the systems and the management information available to them. There have been recent successes in persuading colleges of the benefits of joining purchasing consortia and using procurement cards. Indeed the savings target of £75 million may prove unambitious in light of the low starting point of many colleges. March 2008, when colleges make their first reports on savings to the Learning and Skills Council, will be a good time to consider whether greater savings can be made to be re-invested into services for learners.

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