Public managers and elected members have extensive experience of procuring goods and
services and contracting for supply from private firms and charities.

But, say  you are the new town or county hall leader. New councillors will be asking: do we have an accurate map of council functions, coloured by who carries them out?

If it ever was, competitive contracting for public services can no longer be the default. Awareness of the risk in handing over public business to firms has grown. Major contracting companies are in commercial difficulties, under pressure from the stock market and lenders; prudence requires public bodies to assess the viability of existing contracts.

Local authorities have already responded to altered political and business circumstances and public attitudes. Some are applying local, empirical tests to their contracts and finding them wanting are actively ‘inhousing’ services.

This toolkit does not propose to reinvent the wheel, but is intended as a step-by-step guide for the process of contracting in local authorities.