Labour-run Leicester City Council is being dragged kicking and screaming towards spending transparency – publishing procurement items over £500. Like everyone else their deadline is January 1st.
Cllr Ross Grant, the Conservative Group leader, can be expected to make rigorous use of the material when it becomes available. His analysis of the information he has already managed to get hold of gives us a taste of what to expect.
On his blog he says:
Whilst I listened to George Osborne delivered the CSR I spent 20 minutes working through some purchasing data I had requested, looking at medium nib black biros. I worked out that in 2009/10 Leicester City Council bought over 50,000. The cheapest cost 1.8 pence. The most expensive cost £1.21.
All interesting trivia but there is a real point. The Council purchases via the ESPO organisation, which it part owns. ESPO provide 14 different type of medium nib black biros. If the Council allowed officers to order only the two cheapest pens (one of which is a papermate, so not too shoddy) we would save at least 54% of the money we spent, with the Council spending over £5,500. That's over £5,500 spent just on medium nib black biros!
Those who say that saving £3,000 a year is inconsequential are spectacularly missing the point. For a start nobody would feel that way about their own money. What businessman would say: "Oh were spending twice as much as we should be on biros, who cares?"
But also, of course, the problem is likely to go wider than biros. Sir Philip Green, adopting the same approach as Cllr Grant, finds the savings run into billions.