Academies plan ‘will add value’ to service delivery

Steven Howell, senior policy officer at Localis, was quoted in an MJ article on commissioning skills across the public sector.

Ministers have unveiled a ‘virtual’ academy aimed at boosting commissioning skills across the public sector, amid a climate of diminishing resources and increasing demand for services.

First outlined in the Open Public Services White Paper from 2011, the ‘Commissioning academy’ programme will be run by the Cabinet Office at venues across the country to train ‘capable, confident and courageous procurement people’ to design and deliver value-for-money public services.

Drawing on a pool of commissioners sharing best practice from different parts of the public sector, the academy is supported by a range of bodies ? including the Cabinet Office, the Local Government Association (LGA), the DCLG, departments for education and health, work and pensions and the Home Office. The non-technical programme, designed to inspire participants, comprises eight days’ training, spread over six months, and will include site visits and in-depth discussions with a range of commissioning organisations.

Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, said the academy would support ‘reforms for a more skilled, less bureaucratic, faster civil service which can share best practice across the public sector’.

‘We know there are innovative commissioning teams which are leading the way and embracing new ways of working ? but there are still too many authorities and public bodies where commissioning approaches remain unimaginative, too focused on process, and too risk averse,’ added Mr Maude.

Chairman of the LGA, Sir Merrick Cockell, said: ‘The LGA has worked closely with the Cabinet Office to develop the curriculum and the pilot programmes for the academy, and we hope it will play a key role in helping the public sector develop the skills required to bring about real change in the way services are designed and delivered.’

Steven Howell, senior policy officer at Localis said the think-tank’s recent Catalyst Councils report showed ‘half of leaders and chief executives thought more commissioning skills were a problem for local government’.

‘However, it’s clear that the councils are ahead of the curve and the rest of the public sector could learn a thing or two from them. Putting local authorities at the heart of the Commissioning academy is absolutely the right thing to do,’ said Mr Howell.

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