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Over 100 years of collaborative procurement

28 October 2015 By Paul Smith, Executive Director

West Riding County Supplies - Van

A recent visit to Belgium to discuss the role of central purchasing bodies in Europe prompted YPO Executive Director Paul Smith to delve into the YPO archives and discover our history in collaborative procurement.

Last week, I was invited again to Brussels to meet with the European Commission to discuss the role of central purchasing bodies and their adoption by EU member countries.

It involved representatives from all across Europe and all at different stages in adoption of collaborative procurement. When a colleague from Italy asked how long ago YPO was established, I told him that it was in 1974, however, we can actually trace our history back over 100 years.

This astounded him and he implored me to document some of that early history.

So, back in the office I dug out the copies of minutes that we have from YPO's predecessor organisations. The immediate forerunner to YPO was West Riding County Supplies and, in fact, we have a few employees who started work for that organisation prior to 1974. But the origins of YPO can actually be traced all the way back to the West Riding County Elementary Education Sub-Committee (Supplies Sub-Committee), and we have a collection of minutes of their meetings.

West Riding County Supplies Historical Minutes 

Picture: Bound minutes of the West Riding County Elementary Education Sub-Committee (predecessor to YPO) dating back to 1915.

The earliest record we have are minutes from Tuesday 2 November 1915 (almost exactly 100 years ago), but the organisation goes back to at least 1912 when the Education Department decided that materials needed for needlework lessons would be purchased directly from the manufacturers and kept in a central store to be distributed.

Others within the council soon saw the benefit of this, and by 1920, a fifth of the value of stock in the central store was issued to departments other than Education. In 1930 it was under the separate administration of the County Supplies Committee, and in the 1960s the volume of business of the supplies department was £8.8million.

Sub Committee Minutes 1915

Picture: Minutes of the West Riding County Elementary Education Sub-Committee (predecessor to YPO) dated 2 November 1915.

In 1974 following the restructure of local government in the UK, YPO was established in its modern form as a collaborative procurement body for local government, education and other public bodies. Since its inception, YPO has grown to cover over £650m worth of UK public spend, including that of its original founder member authorities and a growing number of associate members

The purpose of YPO remains consistent with the one established back in 1912 - to help public bodies achieve better value by buying together.

Whilst some countries in the EU are just starting their journey on collaborative procurement, we can honestly say that we have been doing it for over 100 years.

Categories: Procurement , YPO , Education


David Woodward on 17 January 2019

Sir, I am interested to hear of the history of the start of the former West Riding County Supplies. I have recently come across an aerial photograph taken in 1939 which clearly shows the former premises in Cliff Lane and they look fairly new. Do you have any information as to when WRCS first moved into that building and whether in fact it was purpose built for them?

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