Westminster City Council 'struck by generosity of supply chain'

Rebecca Ellinor Tyler is former editor of Supply Management
posted by Rebecca Ellinor Tyler
17 May 2019

Westminster City Council procurement professionals are helping to ensure its residents benefit from living in the strongest economic area of the UK.

The authority leverages its £700m annual goods, works and services spending power to make sure its supply chain delivers additional benefits to the people and businesses within its borders.

Applying the ethos of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, the procurement department says it has been “struck by the generosity of its supply chain”, who have stepped up to partner with it to deliver social value for the borough.

For example, it has boosted the percentage of deals (£100,000 and above in contract value) with social value outcomes from 48% in March 2017 to 87% in March 2018.

Head of procurement development, Mandy Gado, said responsible procurement enables the council to prioritise environmental and social agendas in a non-prescriptive way, allowing suppliers to innovate and forge new relationships with residents and organisations.

She said the authority defines responsible procurement as a “robust, risk-based, commercial approach to integrating social, economic and environmental criteria into decisions throughout the procurement lifecycle”. She adds that successful responsible procurement enables them to derive additional benefits while achieving value for money.

A Responsible Procurement Delivery Plan (RPDP) has been developed that links directly to the authority’s City for All initiative. This means equal importance is placed on all three strands of responsible procurement across the council's priority areas of “opportunity, neighbourhoods and the environment”. Category managers are supported and challenged on their approach to securing suitable arrangements and the level of social value achieved as part of a procurement governance process.

The authority focuses attention on addressing the key challenges it faces and where it believes it can make the biggest impact in partnership with suppliers. These include areas such as the high number of residents who are long-term unemployed, the diverse support required to help them, and ensuring that work-related opportunities in supply chains are available and accessible to all.

Westminster believes it is among those councils leading the way on this agenda and has been responsive to supplier feedback. For example, in response to requests for more clarity on what is wanted as part of any social value response, it developed a list of ideas for suppliers. “We provide suggestions that link to our priorities but also allow the bidder to add their own suggestions,” said responsible procurement lead Snowia Hussain. “Bidders are able to select those suggestions that align with their own CSR programmes or corporate values, such as volunteering with local VCS organisations.”

Gado said she would advise procurement peers considering how they can incorporate social value into their deals to:

•  Engage with potential bidders at market-warming events and ask what social value they have delivered elsewhere and understand their corporate social responsibility values. 

•  Work with commissioners to understand how social value can be built into the design of the service, making it integral.

•  Ask bidders to make their social value offers SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

She said as a result of the team’s efforts, procurement is demonstrating how it is directly supporting the council’s key themes and priorities.

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