Tracking cost savings from competitive tendering in the short and long run
Milne, Robin G.
MetadataShow full item record
A major initiative of the Thatcher and Major Conservative administrations was that public sector ancillary and professional services provided by incumbent direct service organisations [DSOs] be put out to tender. Analyses of this initiative, in the UK and elsewhere, found costs were often reduced in the short run. However, few if any studies went beyond the first round of tendering. We analyze data collected over successive rounds of tendering for cleaning and catering services of Scottish hospitals in order to assess the long term consequences of this initiative. The experience of the two services was very different. Cost savings for cleaning services tended to increase with each additional round of tendering and became increasingly stable. In accordance with previous results in the literature, DSOs produced smaller cost reductions than private contractors: probably an inevitable consequence of the tendering process at the time. Cost savings from DSOs tended to disappear during the first round of tendering, but they appear to have been more permanent in successive rounds. Cost savings for catering, on the other hand, tended to be much smaller, and these were not sustained.