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Social value: how local government is leading the way

David Bemrose explains how Crown Commercial Service is working with local government and suppliers to build social value into public procurement.

Social value will be an integral element of local authorities’ wider economic, social and environmental recovery planning after Covid-19, and critical to place-based recovery plans across local government as the nation seeks to build back better.

2022 will mark a decade since The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 came into force.

And what a decade it has been for the public sector. What is perhaps most remarkable is that the winds of change that have buffeted the sector since then have not stopped many organisations from putting in the detailed planning required to ensure that the vision set out in the Act can be realised.

Crown Commercial Service supports the public sector to get the best deal on the procurement of thousands of goods and services. 

Ensuring that suppliers on our framework agreements are meeting the needs of potential customers, including on social value, is a key part of the development of new solutions, and we’re seeing the first generation of new agreements awarded since the Cabinet Office’s Procurement Policy Note 06/20 of September 2020. 

And while that note focused primarily on central government contracts, suppliers will increase their chances of winning contracts by offering many of the same benefits to organisations across local government and beyond.

How local government leads the social value agenda

The measurement of social value and the community benefits that can be generated from public sector procurement has become increasingly standardised across local government, with the introduction of the national TOMs framework, developed by the Social Value Portal in 2017 and endorsed by the LGA.

TOMs (Themes, Outcomes, Measures) created a new, common language for social value, encouraging a greater consistency in its reporting and measurement. The 5 key themes that TOMs is built around are:

  • Promoting local skills and employment
  • Sustainable and responsible regional business growth
  • Building healthier, safer, and resilient communities
  • Decarbonising and protecting the planet
  • Promoting and enabling innovation

TOMs is updated regularly to reflect feedback and the latest statistical data, but the core Themes and Outcomes remain unchanged. 

It is these elements which potential suppliers to the public sector need to factor into their thinking when bidding for contracts. 

What CCS and suppliers are doing now

With so many framework agreements offering a dizzying array of goods and services, suppliers are interpreting social value in different ways, with guidance from CCS’s category experts.

CCS may ask suppliers bidding to join our agreements to demonstrate how they work to ensure fair, inclusive and ethical employment practices. This could include evidence that they’ve advertised vacancies in a wide range of locations, are using name-blind recruitment practices, or that they’ve engaged with VCSE organisations about the possibility of offering apprenticeships. 

Suppliers on CCS’s furniture agreement are asked to support the Greening Government Commitment to ensure that all packaging of products is reusable or readily recyclable. They report on their greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of waste they send to landfill, and are obliged to demonstrate sustainable sourcing practices for the timber they use.

We also recognise the important role that small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) can play in delivering social value locally. CCS will publish a new SME Action Plan later this year, setting out how we are working to increase SME representation on our agreements and reduce barriers to the public sector working with them.

The commonality here is the importance of considering how social value can be maximised at every stage of the procurement process, whether you’re buying in physical goods or human expertise.

Find out more

You can find a full list of Crown Commercial Service commercial agreements and details of how to build policy considerations into your procurement in our interactive digital brochure.

This article was originally published in Public Sector Executive.


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