Catalyst Housing Group
Group Procurement Manager
Number of properties and location:
Around 17,500 ranging geographically from Kensington in West London out along the Thames Valley to Oxford and Reading, with the main concentrations in Ealing and Brent.
Why did you join PfH?
We strongly support the principle of collaborative procurement as a way of leveraging prices and PfH is one of a number of ways in which we are doing this. But also it's not always cost effective to undertake a really testing competitive tendering exercise on products where the demand is relatively low, so it's reassuring to be able to buy from a framework where you know suppliers have been selected through a rigorous procurement process.
What benefits has PfH created for your organisation?
We used the energy consultants Inenco to tender our gas contracts at a time when no other consultants seemed to have quite got to grips with the difficulties the EU regime presented to RSLs in this highly volatile market. And as founder members of Buy4London, we are squeezing further discounts out of the PfH boiler framework by aggregating demand regionally. Even when, for some reason, we decide not to use a PfH supplier for a particular product, it can be a source of market intelligence that helps us to shape our own deal.
How has central billing helped to streamline your purchasing?
To be frank, central billing presented quite a challenge at first. Because budget holders in different parts of the organisation are used to authorising payments individually, we needed to develop new processes and controls to avoid paying twice. Now that these are up and running, the system does save processing costs, especially on energy bills, but for each new product we still have to be careful that the need to approve locally and pay centrally doesn't lead to administrative complexities that would undermine the savings.
What savings do you expect to make annually?
Including the additional savings through Buy4 London we expect net efficiencies of around £25,000 this year as a result of our membership of PfH
How will your residents and their neighbourhoods benefit from this reinvestment?
We set our service priorities in consultation with our residents, and take advantage of savings across the group as soon as they arise by re-forecasting all budgets quarterly, so that resources are always focussed where they are most needed.
What do you expect PfH to achieve for the sector in the longer term?
Of course the obvious answer is ongoing savings, but I believe that collaboration can also bring about a shift in the balance of power in the marketplace as clients come together to take control of supply chains in complex contracts. This can lead not just to cash savings, but to a more responsive relationship between purchaser and supplier. For example, I look forward to seeing suppliers respond to PfH's new strategic emphasis on sustainability by developing environmental standards which we might struggle to coax from them individually.
What would you say to other housing organisations that are considering becoming a PfH member?
Why would they not? They will get the benefit of professional procurement, market knowledge, leveraged prices, instant call-off from contracts that would take months to tender on their own behalf, and a sense of working together for the benefit of the sector as a whole.