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Peers criticise Government procurement proposals for prioritising competition over collaboration

The House of Lords Public Services Committee has expressed concern that the Government’s proposals on procurement and commissioning of public services “prioritise competition to the detriment of collaboration among providers of public services, give insufficient recognition to the important role played by the voluntary sector, fail to promote expertise in commissioning and do not align with the Health and Social Care Bill”.

The concerns were expressed in a letter from Baroness Armstrong to Treasury Minister Lord Agnew after an evidence session in June with experts from law firms, charities and local authorities.

The letter sets out a series of questions for the Government:

  1. The Procurement Green Paper fails to recognise that procurement and commissioning are different. To what extent, if at all, will the Procurement Bill promote collaboration in the delivery of public services ahead of  competition between service providers?
  2. The Green Paper does not embed the flexibilities that were introduced during the pandemic, nor does it give sufficient recognition to the important role played by the voluntary sector in embedding social value. How will the Procurement Bill rectify these shortcomings? How will the Government replicate the long-term funding arrangements provided by innovation partnerships?
  3. In establishing a National Procurement Policy Statement, the Government must work with local public services providers rather than against them. Local services need the freedom to determine how best to achieve social value in their area. How will the Government ensure that social value requirements do not introduce excessive bureaucracy for local providers?
  4. While central Government is able to draw on a wide range of procurement specialists, it suffers from a dearth of commissioning expertise. Will the Procurement Bill rectify this shortage of skills?
  5. Aside from introducing legislation, what approaches will the Government take to support the sharing of commissioning best practice at the local level?
  6. The NHS White Paper prioritises collaboration over competition in NHS commissioning, while the Government’s procurement proposals do not. How will the Government ensure that legislation in these two areas aligns? How, if at all, will the Procurement Bill complement the NHS White Paper’s focus on encouraging collaboration between councils and the NHS?
  7. How will the Government use health and social care and procurement legislation to ensure sufficient voluntary sector involvement in designing public services, and to encourage integrated commissioning and procurement between the NHS and local government?

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

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