WMCA: The significance of social value in communities

Source: PSE Feb/March 20


Rachael Morgan is the Procurement Manager at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and has been dealing with the organisation’s procurement for over nine years.

PSE’s Emily Rodgers spoke to her at the recent National Social Value Conference about how social value has evolved in this time and how the procurement of goods, services and construction on behalf of local authorities can have a positive impact on the local community.

That’s where social value comes in.

 “Understanding why it’s important, the impacts it can have, looking at the end result and the big difference it can make to people’s life.”

The work of the WMCA focuses on the social, economic and environmental wellbeing on the region, with devolution providing them with the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to transform their region.

This was solidified by a strategic economic plan, set out by Rachael at the Conference, distributing £8bn of investment over the next 30 years. Included in this was £4.4bn for HS2 growth, £1.7bn on Transport and Roads, £1.1bn on Real Estate and £500m on housing.

That’s a lot of procurement, a lot of tenders and… a lot of social value.

Rachael attributes a lot of their social value success on the Social Value Taskforce, which, with the support of the Mayor Andy Street, helps to drive the agenda forward and embed social value into the authority’s procurement policy.

“We’ve pushed each other to get momentum going, initially it was just getting a policy written that we can all use and now we’ve started to implement it into our procurement processes. We’re thinking about what our next stages are, and bouncing ideas off other people and I think it’s really helped to keep things going and see the continual improvement.”

Whether it’s through employing local people or supporting skills training in the local area, Rachael is delivering a weighting of around 10% social value on WMCA procurement but is working to deliver 15-20% over time.

In some areas of the country, the weighting can go up to 30% or more; a desirable figure for many. However, Rachael is staying realistic in their current capacity:

“I think at the moment I can’t push the figure too far, realistically for us it’s still around 10%. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to increase that and learn from others about how they achieved a higher number.”

Since really starting to push social value, Rachael has never looked back, but that doesn’t mean it has been without its challenges.

“I think educating people on why we are doing it and giving really clear guidance is the biggest challenge.  At the very start, people didn’t quite know what social value was, so getting that message up to senior members and suppliers was the biggest thing. I was wary that I didn’t want to add a load of steps into an already quite long procurement process. Making it straightforward as possible was really key so people understood what they were doing.”


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