Commercial Insider is a series of interviews with procurement experts from across Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

Published 15 April 2024

Last updated 15 April 2024

Our experts discuss the topical themes and debates in public procurement right now. They also share their own experiences as leaders of the government commercial profession.

David Skinner

David Skinner joined Crown Commercial Service (CCS) in September 2014. In November he became Director of Customer Experience within CCS.

His current role is to lead teams to build commercial partnership solutions for customers across the public sector.  

David has over 35 years experience in customer service and relationship management in corporate and people market sectors. He’s held senior management commercial roles for organisations including Barclays Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland.  

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Interview text 

Please tell us about Crown Commercial Service and your role within the organisation

CCS plays an important role in helping the UK public sector save money when buying common goods and services. We use our commercial expertise to help the public sector purchase everything from locum doctors and laptops to police cars and electricity.

I am the Director of our Customer Experience Directorate – otherwise known as CXD.  I lead a number of teams focussing on the best ways to engage and maintain relationships with our 20,000 customers.

My team and I aim to embed a customer first mentality across CCS, in all ways of working. Ultimately, we bring the voice of the customer to CCS. 

Customer-focused strategies affect nearly every aspect of business at CCS. Gaining the trust of customers is critical, you have to really communicate, engage and build trusted relationships. However, the rewards can be huge. For example, we have been entrusted with some incredibly high profile humanitarian projects over the last 12 months, including arranging flights to Turkey from London for UK fire and rescue service colleagues, following the devastating earthquakes.

What are the current challenges facing the public sector when it comes to procuring common goods and services? 

We understand that the public procurement process can be complex. Most organisations face countless challenges. 

CCS is working across all customer sectors to help address these challenges. From investing in commercial capability training in local government through to producing easy to digest guidance in the shape of our Procurement Essentials series. 

We’re working to help provide the public sector with the skills and support it needs. 

It’s fair to say that the Transforming Public Procurement programme is the biggest change to public procurement in our professional lifetime. It seeks to overhaul the procurement landscape, speeding up and simplifying processes. CCS has established a project team to ensure that we’re ready and able to help our customers navigate the changes the reform will bring.

What is CCS doing to put public sector customers at the heart of what it does? How have we listened to customers and how are we making it easier for them to use our agreements?

As a team, it’s our role to gather customer intelligence and data. We then work with commercial colleagues to build solutions that we know customers really want and need. 

We’re always looking for ways to save our customers time and to make CCS easier to work with. For example, our new tail spend solution enables a ‘click and buy’ easy transactional procurement for low value ad hoc purchases. The solution was developed after extensive engagement with CCS’s customers and the supply market.

Because we listen, our customers have confidence in using us. Last year we worked with the NHS to provide solutions for virtual wards. This allowed over 100,000 patients to recover at home with hospital-level care, helping speed up their recovery while freeing up hospital beds for patients that need them most.

What is your focus for the future?

Our aim within CXD is to continue to be the ‘intelligent voice of the customer’, ensuring customer desires are fed into the products and services we create. 

Our focus remains on continually demonstrating the value and benefits that CCS brings. We want to help the public sector to spend less and, when they do have to, to spend wisely through safe and reliable agreements, using reputable suppliers.

How are you and your team helping customers to make responsible decisions about sustainability and social value?

We understand that public sector organisations are facing enormous pressures across their supply chains and that, in these circumstances, it might be tempting to prioritise other challenges rather than social value. That’s why many of our agreements, including our recently awarded Facilities Management and Workplace Services, now require suppliers to report on social value metrics. This includes carbon net zero and modern slavery, making it easier for our customers to take account of the latest public procurement policy. 

In particular, we realise how critical it is for our customers that suppliers comply with new government sustainability regulations stipulated in PPN 06/21. Not only have we embraced it for our relevant commercial agreements, we are also offering Carbon Reduction Plan training to ensure supply chains can contribute to net zero and social responsibility goals. Since December 2021, the CCS Sustainability team has trained thousands of suppliers to help them produce, release, and maintain a CRP that conforms to the requirements.

In September, we launched our new carbon net zero grants and funding page on our website. This brings all open CNZ grants and funding opportunities from across the government into one place, supporting the public sector in achieving their net zero goals. 

How is CCS helping to provide value for money customers and help with the rising cost of products/services? 

Drawing on our world-class commercial and procurement expertise, we’re continuing to work with our operations colleagues to leverage the best deals and benchmark our prices, whilst delivering tailored solutions. 

One way we achieve this is through aggregated volume pricing. For example, in 2022, 26 customers joined 4 mobile voice and data aggregations and saved a total of £11.4 million. This saving is equivalent to an average of 73% when compared to previous costs.