contact_arrow down_arrow down_arrow2 europe facebook instagram left_arrow left_arrow2 logo_menu markets measurement menu models money play right_arrow right_arrow2 contact_arrow twitter up_arrow up_arrow2 vimeo exchange

Corrective #2

“We just need to be brave enough (or is it scared enough) to do it”

Peter Schofield Greater Manchester Collaborative Procurement Programme Manager, Public Finance 3/2020


A purpose-driven approach opens the vista from functionally procuring a contracted service:

  • Creatively – to the causes of the need for the service
  • Functionally –  to interconnections with other needs and service areas
  • Imaginatively – to stakeholder collaborations, service integrations and the impactful, preventative and cost-saving effects of an optimal service.


The touchstone for every action, at every stage of a commissioning process, is how that action will effectively contribute to the realisation of a best value public services.


Commissioning, Public Procurement, Public Service contracts, State Aid compliance and Public Authority grants have been blighted by formal processes divergent from the purposes they are designed to serve.

Prescribed procedure too easily moves from being properly systemised to being thoughtlessly entrenched, leading to the ossification of key flexibilities and capacities for reasonable application, interpretation and discretion.

Standard, excessive risk-aversion in legal advice compounds this problem, establishing the paralysing default position that a new approach cannot be taken, because it has not been taken before.

This is how “commissioning” has wrongly become synonymous with the public procurement of 3-year transactional service contracts; how public authority subsidy has wrongly become synonymous with prohibited state aid; and how public authority commercial investment has failed to develop into the norm of blending reasonable return with local socio-economic impact.

It is also why the inherent, distinctive Public Value of social enterprises, charities and community organisations and businesses has been ignored in the polarisation of public service provision options into public sector delivery, or outsourcing to the private sector.  


There are unfair criticisms of public authorities, but there is no doubt that their rigidity of structure is a major problem in relation to public service reform and innovation. A consistent experience of progressive service providers is disjunction and incoherence between:

  • commissioning, procurement, legal and finance teams and politicians within a single public authority;
  • different public service departments and their budgets; and
  • different public authorities and their budgets.

In relation to public procurement regulation, tenacious myths and over-standardised processes blocking more constructive practice.

Invitations to tender and related forms of contracts are rarely presented, as they could be, as applied and detailed specifications of common purpose, collaborative endeavour; and practical communication mechanisms, within proportionate, facilitative legal frameworks, but are invariably the products of invariable processes, adapted from traditional commercial templates, with transactional, non-applied, over-written and largely redundant sections, predominantly focussing negatively on protection and remedy.

The contract terms and conditions, typically, are wholly, or substantively, imposed.

In contrast, a good public services contract is a positive, relational, mutual, balanced, fair working agreement, of sufficient duration to allow for full provider investment, with a consulted upon and agreed, comprehensive and precise service specification and clear and practical communication provisions, under which the provider is paid an amount fully to cover costs, including a reasonable surplus.

What next?

Purpose must drive process is the second of the FIVE CORRECTIVES. Click on the buttons below to read the others: