In defence of Intelligent Commissioning

I’ve just seen The Argus article about Brighton & Hove’s Intelligent Commissioning programme, criticising work done to reform the way the City decides what it spends its money on. To me it’s a very one sided article, and makes a very common mistake.

Commissioning refers to the whole cycle of understanding needs, deciding how to respond to those needs, deciding who should provide the service, and assessing how effective it is. The diagram to the left shows this neatly (thanks to Leeds Voice).

It’s not just about saving money – it’s about doing things better, targeting scarce resources more effectively, and involving all agencies or organisations that might have knowledge about needs and ideas about improvements in the decision-making. It’s about creating a better way of working, using all the expertise we have in the City.

Central Government policy for a number of years, Labour and Coalition, has to been to open up the delivery of services.  So it might be that a charity, or a social enterprise, or a private company runs the service rather than the council. This has been happening for years with waste disposal, for example, and many youth and children’s services are run by charities. So its unfair to equate the Intelligent Commissioning programme exclusively with outsourcing.

It certainly is fair to ask questions about progress on Intelligent Commissioning though, and indeed since the change of administration the pace of progress has been slow.

But the programme has pretty broad support in the voluntary and community sector in Brighton. This is partly because it gives us the opportunity to compete to run services for our beneficiaries, but also because it gives us a voice in decisions about how to respond to local needs. This is really important, especially at a time when so many in communities are struggling. I believe that we should be working with public sector partners to drive and contribute to positive change.

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