Last month saw the announcement by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, that Ministers have already identified £11bn of the £20bn in Whitehall spending cuts targeted for 2014/15. These savings come from various initiatives including reigning in the cost of major projects, cutting the civil service payroll and looking for improvements around the management of their Estate, IT and Procurement functions.
Both John Manzoni, Whitehall’s first CEO, and Sir Jeremy Heywood, Head of the Civil Service, both spoke openly that the function lacked “critical skills” to execute big projects and about the criticality of improving procurement skills: “we have got to get much better at doing the commercial stuff”.
For some time a barrier to attracting the talent sought from the private sector has been overall remuneration and the growing gap between the two. However change is a foot with a draft of 25 commercial directors coming on board under the guidance of Bill Crothers, Chief Commercial Officer, in the Cabinet Office.
These roles, which are rewarded higher than the Prime Minister’s salary, highlight the critical nature of the programme and a genuine eagerness to attract the best commercial talent from the private sector. This is further backed by a committed leadership programme through Cranfield University running in parallel to the current Major Projects Leadership Academy at Saïd Business School.
This is a fantastic opportunity for the profession to really showcase itself as a key part of central government. With the election a matter of weeks away, and with the heightened scrutiny this will bring, it gives the profession a tremendous platform to illustrate its value to any organisation which will hopefully inspire more undergraduates to consider a path into procurement.
Richard Guest is a specialist recruiter in the Procurement & Supply Chain practice at Berwick Partners.