The Raven's Blog

07.08.17

Delivering social value in public sector procurement

Theresa Grant, CEO of Trafford Council, explains how local authorities in the Greater Manchester area are making every penny of public spend provide that little bit more value for money.

Theresa-headshot-300x271Prisoners in Forest Bank Prison in Salford are being given the opportunity to gain an NVQ qualification thanks to a local government contract.’  It’s not as black and white as it sounds. The local authority is in fact not funding the NVQ or offering any direct support. This opportunity has been made possible through social value.

So why is it the public sector is placing so much ‘value’ on it as part of its tender process?

In Greater Manchester, we have a GVA of almost £60bn and a public spend of close to £8bn. This puts us in a position to make a huge difference by maximising spending power and ensuring our residents and businesses benefit from the spend available.

Our commitment to this approach was strengthened further in 2014, when the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) agreed a social value policy which provides a consistent approach across each Manchester authority to deliver social value through procurement – making every pound go further is a priority. After all it is public money and we need to make every penny provide that little bit more value for money. 

Behind the opening statement to this article is a very pure example of how we are making that pound go further. Previously, local authorities, and many similar businesses, have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds dismantling and recycling redundant computer software and devices. It comes with the territory of good data protection management and of working in a fast-paced technological society.

On the back of a Greater Manchester contract to buy new software and technology, the company responded to the social value task head-on and the benefits of the contract have not just saved money, they’ve made real differences to people’s lives. The company works with Antz network (a GM Charity) to establish a partnership with Forest Bank Category B prison in Salford under which IT assets that cannot be reused are processed by inmates.

Whereas this type of equipment was previously transported to recycling partners who crushed, shredded and smelted waste metals and plastics, the breakdown and separation of boards, precious metals and plastics is now undertaken by prisoners. The result is reduced environmental impact plus a significant benefit to inmates who gain training, qualifications and work experience.

Prisoners have the opportunity to gain an NVQ qualification in recycling, enabling them to be “work ready” for potential employers when released.

The contract provides a value-for-money service (cost reductions of up to £100,000 per annum per authority) that is compliant with all legislative requirements and exceeds environmental requirements as it guarantees that zero waste goes to landfill.  Wider benefits include a reduced demand on public sector support and the benefits system, future reduction in demand for treatment of mental and physical health conditions associated with long-term unemployment, and reduced re-offending rates. Research shows that offending behaviour programmes can reduce reconviction rates by up to 14%.

Need I say more about the benefits of social value and why we are placing such huge emphasis on its importance as part of our procurement exercises.

Working with local charities and the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector is something we actively encourage as demonstrated in the example above. The VCSE sector is significant in Greater Manchester and generates ‘added value’ through their normal activities thereby generating outcomes without public funding investment but through volunteering, charitable giving, informal trading and community action. Greater Manchester’s social value approach requires suppliers to identify opportunities to support this work by providing the means for employees to engage in voluntary work or by through direct support, such as making space available for VCSEs to use, mentoring or giving resources to support programmes that are in place.

The Greater Manchester strategy has recently been reviewed and updated, and the GM Social Value Policy will reflect the changes. Our policy needs to evolve and change to learn from what we have experienced so far and to ensure we are adapting to ever-changing markets and the partners we need to work with to achieve our aims and objectives for the growth and benefit of Greater Manchester.

The longer-term impacts of this approach will be to reduce dependency and demand on public services across the sub-region, which will contribute towards increased economic growth in Greater Manchester.

Greater Manchester is taking the challenge of ensuring its spend goes far, goes deep and adds more to the lives of its residents through social value.

Theresa Grant will be speaking at this year’s National Social Value Conference, which takes place in Birmingham on 14 November. To find out more about the event, click here.

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