Best Value Procurement Bids in Council Services

Empirical Work

This paper is an empirical study on the strategic significance that Best Value (BV) Procurement adds to Birmingham City Council. The aim of the proposed research is to quantify the strategic link between the BV and the contemporary strategic Procurement. Then to create a model which will evaluate the contribution of the strategy when applied to Birmingham City Council.

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Best Value was introduced into the public sector in 1998, announced through the government’s white paper “Modern Local Government in Touch with the People”. This paper introduced extensive reform of local government, including the new initiative of BV. Within this BV is the e-Government, Community Planning, Strategic Partnerships and new political management structures (White Paper 1998).

The theory of Best Value was aimed at improving local government services; this was introduced in the Local Government Act 1999. BV replaced the old system of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT), and required local authorities to review over a period of five years, the method in which they conduct all their functions. This would take the form of consultation with the local community to deliver the most effective, economic and efficient services (Local Government Act 1999).

The Governments intention to reform local government continued and in 2001 they published a further white paper entitled “Strong Local Leadership, Quality Public Services”. Addressed within this paper were issues that included strong community leadership, continuous improvement, comprehensive performance assessment, financial freedom and modernisation of finance systems (White Paper 2001).

The report in 2001 Delivering Better Services for Citizens, a review of local government procurement in England was published as a consultation paper. The report included the following recommendation; there should be clear political responsibility for procurement, with elected members taking a strategic role in securing outcomes. Best Value is about breaking down the boundaries between the public and private sectors in local service delivery. (The Byatt Report 2001)

This research paper is based on the government white papers and reports which initially defined BV in procurement and established Strategic Management tools used to identify strategic choice within local authorities. The conceptual analysis is based on identifying the congruence of strategic links between the BV definition and chosen Strategic Management tools.

The focus of the paper is Birmingham City Council’s BV practices, and this will be measured against the resulting model. The output of this research is to measure the strategic worth of Best Value and the strategic worth of Birmingham City Council’s delivery of Best Value. The paper will evaluate the relative merits of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

Methodology

The rationale of this chapter is to compare and discuss the research methods that could be used for this empirical research paper. When researching any paper there are numerous methods for collecting data, they do not always produce workable data that is easy to analysis. Therefore it is vital to review and plan the methods that will be employed.

Before beginning any of the research a time scale will be composed, this will plan and set targets for the research. This plan is flexible, to allow for any considerable changes to the project due to unexpected research findings. Theoretically, the proposal should draw attention to any difficulties with the research question and the access to the data.

Secondary Research

The secondary research will discuss the theories and concepts which exist on the topic and be presented in the literature review. The findings from the primary research are then tested on these theories for validity (Saunders, M. et al 1997). Tertiary data sources will assist in the search for secondary data, this will reveal books, journals, newspaper articles, and Internet addresses on the topic (Bell, J. 2005). This section of the research will present some of the conclusions from the relevant Government’s White Papers as a secondary source of research data.

Primary Research

Primary research is vital to the project as it produces the raw data on the current situation in the organisations. A consideration when gathering primary research data, is obtaining the consent of both the organisation and individuals prior to initiating the research and this data must remain within the scope of the project (Saunders et al 1997).

Primary Research Methods

Method

Type of Research

Characteristics, Benefits and shortcomings

Postal survey

Quantitative

Cost is low
Response rate can be poor
Answers may be incomplete
Responses are pre-coded and simple so people can understand them
this can mean the quality of information provided is lower than from other methods

Telephone and/or email survey

Quantitative

Cost effective method of achieving robust sample allowing generalisations to be made
Responses are pre-coded Certain groups do not have access to the telephone, so may be excluded from the sample
It is difficult to ask sensitive questions over the telephone
Works well with employers

Face-to-face survey

Quantitative

includes both open questions as pre-coded
Can achieve robust sample allowing generalisations if sufficient numbers are surveyed
Expensive and time-consuming to administrator
Ideal for gathering sensitive information or exploring complicated issues

interview

Qualitative

In depth and detailed information can be gathered
Interviewers are allowed more flexibility
Answers to open questions can be difficult and time-consuming to analyse
Expensive and time-consuming to administrator

Focus group

Qualitative

A group discussion with around 8-12 people
Can lasts up to 3 hours
Capitalises on interaction between participants
Participants are not representative of wider population which does not allow for generalisation
Good method for gathering sensitive data
Requires careful and unbiased analysis

Case study

Qualitative

Researcher gains understanding of a individuals experience
Provides good quotations and rich data
Can bring alive other research, such as survey data
Findings cannot be generalised to a wider population

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is not just quality, it is the starting point where individuals understand and can talk about their lives. Qualitative studies attempt to explain social phenomena (for example experience, attitudes, behaviour, interactions and belief) in terms of the wider contexts of individual’s lives (Cresswell, J 1994). To gain this type of data methods such as direct, unstructured interviewing, or observation of real-life settings (ethnography) are used. The data that qualitative methods of research collect is usually words, rather than numbers, in the form of transcripts. That data is typically unstructured, and statistical methods cannot be used in its analysis (King, N. 1998).

Individuals are surveyed or studied in order to understand their experience from their perspective, that is, what matters to them, rather than from the standpoint of the researcher or the professionals. Observational studies have been undertaken to understand the informal culture, of the organisation (King, N. 1998).

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research generates numerical data or data that can be converted into numbers, for example clinical trials or the National Census. Numbers are the main type of data that these methods collect, and those numbers will be analysed using mathematical or statistical techniques. Surveys that take the form of questionnaires are usually quantitative (Cresswell, J 1994).

Conclusion

This paper will combine both quantitative and qualitative approaches, using a qualitative study to guide the design of a subsequent quantitative study and by mixing elements of the one approach into the other. Questionnaires can contain both quantitative and qualitative questions.

This paper will use both a quantitative and quantitative approach to the questions. This will be in the form of a ratings scale (1 to 5), whereas the qualitative questions will present a box where people can write in their own words.

To obtain the strategic value in BV, a case study approach will be used; this will gauge the working practices and will enhance the data from the questionnaires. The secondary research will focus on the Governments white papers, and will introduce discussion from books and journals written on the subject.

References

Bell, J (2005) (4th Edition) Doing Your Research Project, Open University Press, Buckingham

Cresswell, J (1994) Research Design (Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches), Sage publications, London

King, N. (1998) Template analysis in G. Symon and C. Cassell (eds.) Qualitative Methods and Analysis in Organizational Research, Sage London

Saunders, M. Et al (1997) Research Methods for Business Students, Pitman Publishing, London.

Papers

White Paper (1998) Modern Local Government in Touch with the People, Accessed through, www.communities.gov.uk

Local Government Act 1999, Accessed through, www.communities.gov.uk

White Paper (2001) Strong Local Leadership, Quality Public Services, Accessed through, www.communities.gov.uk

The Byatt Report (2001) Delivering Better Services for Citizens, Accessed through, www.woking.gov.uk

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