Putting social value at the heart of central government procurement

As the government progresses its ambitious COVID-19 recovery strategy, The Cabinet Office has officially unveiled its Procurement Policy Note 06/20, introducing new measures that place social value at the centre of all future central government procurement activity. 

From 1st January 2021, all central government buyers must explicitly evaluate how much social value is being generated when procuring public contracts. The notice outlines a new social value model that will be used by central government to score suppliers on the wider social, economic and environmental benefits they can bring, setting out five key pillars for evaluation:

o COVID-19 recovery
Activities that help local communities to manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19

o Tackling economic inequality
Activities that create new businesses, new jobs or new skills, as well as increasing supply chain resilience

o Fighting climate change
Activities that deliver or champion additional environmental benefits, such as working towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions

o Equal opportunity
Activities that reduce the disability employment gap and tackling workforce inequality

o Wellbeing
Activities that improve health and promote community integration

A step in the right direction

Value has too often been narrowly defined by price in contract awards. But the past decade has seen the world open its eyes to how public sector buying power can be used to drive broader value that benefits local economies and create more resilient supply bases.

The new social value model aims to ‘level up’ the country and open up much-needed opportunities for SMEs and third sector organisations to win public contracts, unlocking real, measurable value for the communities in which they operate.

According to the Cabinet Office, it will include tests “that all bidders, irrespective of their size and type, will be capable of meeting, therefore, further levelling the playing field for the UK’s small businesses, start-ups and voluntary and community sector organisations and social enterprises.”

These significant changes present a welcome enhancement to the Social Value Act 2012, a move that underpinned the government’s commitment to social value when procuring services. While the Act has been successful in its mission to place more focus on the social and economic benefits of public sector spending, it obligates authorities to merely ‘consider’ the social value outcomes of a contract rather than guarantee them. In response to this issue, the new 2021 model ups the ante by tightening the screws on the Act’s guidance around social value, ensuring it becomes an integral – and mandated – aspect of public spending.

Delivering assurance for central government buyers

While the introduction of the model is a welcome leap forward in the country’s attempt to build back better, it will almost certainly spark concerns around compliance. Awarding contracts to SMEs often comes with a perceived risk of contractual issues, specifically non-delivery or delay, the supplier going out of business and value for money.

With a proven track record in empowering the central government and the wider public sector to deliver on their social value goals, we understand these concerns and deliver a comprehensive solution for buyers through our fully compliant open-access marketplace. Each and every supplier we onboard goes through a robust and detailed accreditation process to verify their capability to deliver in the chosen category, giving government buyers the cast-iron assurance that’s at the heart of our service.

We deliver the fast and fully compliant NEPRO ³ solution, an OJEU compliant procurement framework that delivers substantial savings to the public sector. The solution allows buyers to move quickly and at the lowest possible cost, saving public sector buyers on average between 11% and 19% against budget.

For further peace of mind, we fully manage all aspects of the procurement process through direct award or mini-competition, providing complete visibility at every stage for buyers. Unlike traditional frameworks, our buyers have unrestricted access to any supplier in the UK so you can confidently support the businesses you need, when you need them. To date, 88.9% of our accredited suppliers are of SME status, enabling public sector buyers to drive significant growth back into the local economies that need it most.

As we enter a pivotal stage of the country’s recovery from the pandemic, it’s never been more important for public sector bodies to deliver key social and environmental outcomes that improve the quality of communities and the lives of the people living within them. If you’d like to discuss how we can help your organisation meet these new mandated requirements and maximise the positive impact you can make, get in touch with us today.