A Nabarro Nathanson public sector partner has played a key role on a Government taskforce, which last week issued its report on procurement skills within local government.
Helen Randall was the only lawyer invited to join the taskforce, which was chaired by Sir Ian Byatt. The 10-strong body was drawn from the public and private sectors. Eversheds also took part in the process by submitting evidence to the taskforce. The report makes 39 recommendations to improve the way local government procures and commissions goods and services, particularly in light of the best value framework. It is aimed at local and central government and at suppliers, including the legal profession. Randall said that the report makes a number of recommendations which could have an impact on the role of lawyers. "The report recommends that the private sector should gear itself up rather better to deal with local government. Lawyers involved will need to gear themselves up too," she said. "Whether lawyers are acting for a private sector company or a local authority, they have to make sure they understand how local authorities work." The report goes on to recommend a closer relationship between local authorities and external advisers in order to address the skills shortfall within the public sector. It also calls on local authorities to implement strategies to train and help retain staff. "One of the difficulties in local government is retaining lawyers, especially those who specialise in procurement contracts. The report recognises that, and calls for a general building up of capability in local government," said Randall. The report's recommendations include improvements to legislation. Randall said: "The report recommends that the Government should continue its discussions with the European Commission to liberalise the European procurement regime, which will again affect lawyers. It emphasises that the interpretation of local authority standing orders and national and European rules affecting procurement should be viewed flexibly and not used as an excuse to avoid innovation." Also relevant to lawyers is the report's recognition of the virtue of greater standardisation of documents, providing that the individual circumstances and needs of local authorities are acknowledged. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Local Government Association will hold a joint consultation process on the report before responding.