How a council's procurement policy 'improved city's mental health by 11%'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
19 August 2022

The procurement policies of a council that sought to support local supply chains have been shown to have improved the mental health of the community by 11%, according to research.

Preston City Council’s Community Wealth Building programme focused on organisations including local government, universities and housing providers “modifying their procurement policies to support the development of local supply chains, improve employment conditions and the socially-productive use of wealth and assets”, said a report.

Researchers compared data from a similar group of towns and calculated mental health in Preston improved by 11% relative to the control group as a result of the programme, which began in 2013. Life satisfaction improved by 9% and median wages by 11%, relative to expected trends.

“We found that in Preston after 2015 following the introduction of their Community Wealth Building programme mental health and wellbeing improved relative to the expected trends estimated from other similar areas,” said the report. 

“This occurred alongside improvements in wages and employment that were also greater in Preston. 

“The findings are consistent with Preston’s Community Wealth Building programme having led to economic improvements that have translated into improvements in mental health and wellbeing.”

The researchers – from the University of Liverpool, University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, and the Centre of Local Economic Strategies – said the results indicated around 2,400 fewer people with common mental health disorders and “health improvements are a feasible goal of local economic strategies and may be realised within a relatively short time period”.

They said the research provided lessons for the government and its Levelling Up agenda.

“The government’s strategy however is based on the principles of agglomeration economics and attracting inward investment into places such as Preston,” said the report.

“Such approaches have not always led to improved wellbeing and decreased inequality. Our research indicates that an approach focused on Community Wealth Building may be more effective at achieving the government’s ambition – although additional evidence is needed to understand this process.” 

The Centre for London think tank, which is investigating how local authorities in the capital can use procurement to create more value, said London councils spent £12.9bn with third parties in 2019-20.

“In recent years many have begun to think about this spending more strategically, exploring whether it could be used to gain more value – whether financial or social – for local residents,” said Jon Tabbush, senior researcher at the Centre for London.

This included buying more from local suppliers and SMEs and adding social value requirements, such as employing local young people as apprentices on construction projects, into contracts.

“This can have a significant impact on the local economy,” said Tabbush.

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