10.1 This report has suggested a general awareness and some understanding of the third sector amongst the commissioning and procurement staff who responded to the survey. Relations with the sector, although they could be improved, were generally seen to be at least adequate and in many cases good. More than half of respondents indicated that their authority engaged with the sector in the development of services and there were some positive findings about how authorities maximised opportunities for the sector to compete for public contracts. Similarly, half of respondents considered the additional value that the sector offers in its tender proposals as part of day-to-day team practice.
10.2 Nevertheless, a majority of respondents felt that commissioning and procurement could be improved so that the sector could compete more equally: and a range of thoughtful comments were made on how this might be achieved, including better training for the sector and for procurement staff, better communication, and taking another look at procurement practice to ensure that service quality could be properly accounted for in the tendering process.
10.3 One surprising aspect of the survey findings, perhaps, is the level of uncertainty expressed on a number of questions. There was uncertainty about how strategies inform procurement decisions (and indeed whether particular strategies were actually in place), whether contracts were directed to deliver key priorities in the SOA and whether contract timescales fitted with SOA timescales.
10.4 A further surprise is the relatively high numbers of respondents who said that their authority did not often actively liaise with other bodies to ensure continuity of cost, and a minority that seemed unsure that their authorities were providing a value for money service, and delivering quality contracts.
10.5 Perhaps not surprising, but still worthy of comment, is the low awareness of community benefit clauses. Nearly half were not very aware or not at all aware of these. There would also appear to be a very low number of designated community benefits champion in any area of procurement might be a contributory factor in this.
10.6 The need for additional training emerged as a recurring theme through the survey responses, particularly in the 'free-text' sections of the questionnaire, both for third sector and for procurement staff.
10.7 Finally, questions arise as to why respondents were uncertain about particular aspects of procurement practice raised by the survey, what the actual picture is across the 32 local authorities (rather than what the perceptions of respondents are), and how the particular context of some respondents (in large or small, urban or rural or mixed authorities) affects how procurement officers feel about and are able to do their job. With these questions in mind, it is clear that this report is a starting point for further work, some of which should perhaps be analytical in character, rather than an end in itself.