Bye bye BECTA, baby bye bye

Opinion

Bye bye BECTA, baby bye bye

The channel is digesting - and will be for the next month - the ramifications of the Government's decision to axe BECTA but after the dust settles, will the industry really be worse off or did the quango justify its existence?

The procurement body was set up in 1998 - one year after Labour got into power - and has become one of the first victims of the coalition Government's attempts to cut costs; a BECTA free Britain is expected to be £80m better off this fiscal year.

Of course BECTA has come out fighting following the news, with chief executive Stephen Crowne defending its output.

"Our procurement arrangements save the schools and colleges many times more than BECTA costs to run," he said on its website.

The problem for Mr Crowne is that his £220,000 a year wage bill and the circa £112m budget that BECTA enjoyed on an annual basis is symptomatic of the excessive spending patterns that now need to be curtailed by our Oxbridge friends in power.

BECTA was founded to manage the procurement of technology in schools and seek out costs savings by developing frameworks with bigger economies of scale but did the savings justify its own budget?

BECTA employed 240 staff and 120 contractors. It spent £1.5bn via its procurement agreements since 2002 and reckons it rung out £55m worth of cost savings for schools, local authorities in the past year.

Despite this, I suspect the £100m plus budget could be better used on the front line.

The discontinuation of BECTA may cause a short sharp intake of breath from resellers that are involved in the bidding for this forthcoming ICT services framework but even if they did make it onto the supplier list, there was no guarantee of business.

Using the framework agreement is not compulsory for schools and BECTA had no power to enforce them so it may have been a good idea that was poorly executed.

With a raft of positions in BECTA that were due to be filled, it looks like resellers were not the only ones that didn't get a sniff of the planned cuts.

So it's bye-bye BECTA, but the next question is what does the future hold in store for BSF or indeed the Home Access scheme?

Drop me a line, on the QT, off-record, very much hush hush.

This was first published in May 2010

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