The Crown Commercial Service saw its spending on consultants shoot up by 18.5% in the year to April, the organisation’s annual report has revealed.
But the increased spend was counterbalanced by reduced contingent labour costs, which dropped by 22% compared with the previous year.
The CCS annual report and accounts said the Cabinet Office executive agency racked up £1.52m in consultancy costs in 2021-22, up from £1.28m in the preceding 12-month period.
It said the increase was driven by two main factors: the CCS Change Programme and the Market Segmentation project. The Change Programme is the organisation’s refreshed Transformation Programme, which consisted of three elements: “accelerate”, which delivered digital solutions for specific commercial agreements; “scale”, focused on delivering a strategic digital solution for CCS; and “transform”, focused on people and cultural change.
The reduction in contingency labour spend from £5.36m to £4.17m was due to changes in the scope of the Change Programme and reduced dependence on agency staff in the Digital and Data Services directorate, the report said.
While the Cabinet Office’s annual statistics last month showed that the civil service notched up a 5.5% increase in headcount in the year to March, CCS exceeded that figure.
The annual report said salaried staff numbers grew from 720 to 786 over the period, a rise of 12%, while the senior civil service ranks swelled by 24%, from 41 to 51.
Elsewhere, the document said spending through CCS frameworks had doubled over the past five years, reaching £27.6bn in 2021-22, an increase of £4.9bn on the previous year.
CCS agreements had delivered £2.8bn of commercial benefits for the public sector over the 12-month period, £1.9bn of which were secured for central government, it said.
The approximately £900m in benefits gleaned for the wider public sector included £4m in savings on mobile and data services for 14 NHS trusts and £1.6m saved for the Student Loan Company by outsourcing print and mail services through CCS’s Managed Print and Digital Solutions framework.
ACRO Criminal Records Office – the national police unit that processed the Partygate fixed-penalty notices sent to prime minister Boris Johnson, then-chancellor Rishi Sunak and others – secured a machine translation service through CCS’s Language Services framework.
CCS said the move enabled ACRO to translate vital conviction information quickly from EU member states and prevent criminal cases being thrown out of court, saving £6,000 in three months and helping to make UK streets safer.
CCS chief executive officer Simon Tse said growing the nation’s economy was a “top priority” for the organisation and flagged its record in supporting small business to achieve the goal.
“The past year has seen record spending with SMEs through CCS agreements and suppliers have been paid promptly, aiding their growth and spreading economic prosperity across the country,” he said.
“CCS agreements have also supported public sector customers with key policy priorities, such as net-zero commitments and supply-chain auditing.
“Thousands of customers used CCS’s dedicated net-zero web pages over the last 12 months to identify agreements that help them meet sustainability goals.”
The annual report and accounts said £2.2bn was spent directly with SMEs through CCS’s commercial agreements in 2021-22, up £687m on the previous year.