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An expert team of researchers have been granted funding to investigate how local authority spending across the UK can deliver maximum benefit to communities in the wake of COVID-19. 

GO Lab's Research Fellow, Dr Clare FitzGerald, and Research Associate, Ruairi Macdonald, have joined academics from universities of Stirling, Northumbria and Cardiff to embark on a research project, ‘Optimising Procurement Outcomes for COVID-19 and Beyond: Lessons from the Crisis’. It is one of the largest studies investigating how the annual £100bn local government procurement spend is being dispensed during the pandemic.

Local authority spending in the spotlight

The crisis has confirmed how crucial local authorities' role is in keeping communities safe. Local authorities spend around £100bn or 47% of their total budget annually on procurement - crucially important resources to mobilise in the COVID-19 crisis. Where rapid scaling-up of services is necessary, the limits of some local authorities' capacities and their supply-chains are often being tested as costs, staff and supply shortages increase. Such challenges require smart and agile procurement responses to build strong effective and efficient relationships and generate positive impacts for local communities.

This study will investigate these urgent issues, and how gains might be achieved in the response to COVID-19. It will look at how local procurement can deliver the biggest benefit for residents, whether for public health, social care, or as a key economic lever to restart the local economy.  

Principal Investigator, Dr Simmons, University of Stirling: "This is an exciting opportunity to hear some of the hidden stories from the frontline of the COVID-19 response. Local authorities are at the heart of their communities' safety, wellbeing and resilience, and we want to help them get as much as they can from the resources they have available."

Maximising the impact of procurement

Along with extensive stakeholder engagement and support from important project partners, the project is funded by a grant of £476,113 from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI),’s rapid response to COVID-19. The team will use surveys, interviews, webinars and a range of more detailed mini-investigations. They will seek to find out what is working well, less well, why, and with what effects and implications, and encourage reflection on the ability of the 'procurement ecosystem' to respond in a crisis. The research team will also examine emerging opportunities to maximise the impact of, and leverage additional value from local authority procurement. 

Deepening our understanding of how networks of actors respond individually and collectively to a crisis is integral to improving how we prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and beyond. To credibly investigate ongoing efforts in communities, regions, and in Whitehall is such a unique and important mechanism for documenting and sharing learning about what is or is not working and why.
Dr Clare FitzGerald, Research Fellow, GO Lab