Latest Public Sector News


Individual output on a shared platform

Source: Public Sector Executive March/April 2013

PSE speaks to Takki Sulaiman, head of communications at Tower Hamlets council, about a far-reaching new print contract that could generate significant savings.

Tower Hamlets has set up an impressive pan-London framework agreement for print and communications that could be worth up to £20m over four years and involve multiple councils, and even other public sector bodies.

The borough’s head of communications, Takki Sulaiman, spoke to PSE about the benefits of such a large and flexible framework. He said: “It has the potential to be [very big]; it’ll vary from £5m up to £20m, depending on how many people join.”

Leaving this opportunity open was integral to keeping the framework cost-effective, and will allow each local authority to continue with its own way of delivering communications.

“We’re entering an era that people have talked about for a number of years, about working together to leverage greater value. It’s been patchy up until now.”

The framework begins in October.

Formalising savings

Tower Hamlets’ current print and communications contract is run with four other local authorities, but organised in a much less formal manner. The new service could provide greater savings and the potential to move into digital.

He said: “It could have been done more systematically. We wanted something a bit more formalised that gave us access to the benefits of digital technology, perhaps largescale advertising opportunities.”

That provided a testbed for the new agreement.

Sulaiman expressed the councils’ satisfaction with the existing contract: “We were pleased with what it did for us and thought we could do more with it – we’re looking to extend its scope.”

He admitted that including so many partners and non-council organisations was “unusual” but clarified that the key was using the bidders’ buying power to purchase core materials that could then be used for individual requirements.

“It’s not about forcing everybody to use the same format; that’s been one of the limitations of public sector contracts in the past. Different public sector bodies have different systems. Trying to have one giant contract for everybody hasn’t been possible, but we’ve got a model which works. The core is purchasing power of print and paper.”

Keeping the options open

The emergence of new organisations such as NHS clinical commissioning groups could provide further opportunities for print services – relating to their localities through leaflets and publications in GP surgeries.

But this wouldn’t mean the print format would be the same for all involved, as Sulaiman explained: “There are lots of opportunities to build a shared communications output, at some point perhaps a core additional platform, which we will share but will look very different.

“We wouldn’t sit in the same electronic or even physical publication; we will use the technology as a platform. But it’s a small part – we recognise that there are lots of people who use our services who don’t have access to mobile phones or smartphone technology.”

Sulaiman said that people still preferred publications they could see and hold, although he admitted that in a few years’ time, “that might be different”.

He said: “We’re trying to continue with the print world and open the door slightly to people taking up an opportunity if they want more options. The main principle in this contract is the ability to leverage savings by working together.”

A sliding scale

This offered “a huge amount of flexibility” to cover the different weight, size and formats of authorities’ needs. The final specification will take this into account.

There were nine local authorities now involved in the scheme, which Sulaiman called “promising”.

The contract also has the option of extension to other public sector bodies which could help the organisations to reach a “tipping-point” of benefit for both the printer and the customer.

“Once we’ve got the details sorted and depending on the capacity of the successful bidder, we will widen it out to others.”

He described a sliding scale from bidders to achieve the best possible price with a number of different requirements: “Each press and each organisation will have its own critical mass and it’s that we’re looking to explore.”

Through the open door

In terms of the future, Sulaiman described an option in the framework agreement to extend communications online. Providing good digital services was something “organisations are still grappling with”, he said, but added that if local government could find a way of targeting relevant content towards citizens, it could be extremely beneficial.

“If we can get services on a digital platform, quickly and easily, people will use it. Websites are large and complex, hard to find your way around; navigating all the content in all the various types of work that local authorities do, is hard.

“If you could say ‘I’m interested in this, this and this’, the local authority could push the information to you from the council website.

“You can have a system like that that extends beyond just news and information, and services – ‘you clicked on this, you might like this’.

“It’s about targeted communication and integrating it across other platforms.”


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >