How Isle of Wight Council is turning procurement from 'hurdle to opportunity'

The Isle of Wight Council has overhauled its policy to make procurement “an opportunity, not a hurdle”.

The updated procurement policy “aims to make things easier”, while including an emphasis on buying sustainably and supporting island businesses and suppliers.

The council faced a “serious challenge” regarding its financial position due to budget reduction, and said it aimed to make procurement and contract management efficient, cost-effective, and as high-value as possible with its new strategy.

The council’s four priorities were building wealth in the local community, improving climate and the environment, improving commercial approach, and increasing its skills and capabilities.

To build community wealth, the council committed itself to plural ownership of the economy by investing in anchor institutions, those organisations with significant spending, employment and economic development power in the area. By connecting to these institutions, it hoped to encourage adoption of fair employment and just labour, and progressive procurement with SMEs, social enterprises and cooperatives.

The council has set goal of net zero emissions as an island by 2040. It said it would expect suppliers to demonstrate commitment to reducing overall environmental impact, for example through participation in green programmes, internal reporting, pursuit of environmental certification or receipt of a sustainability award.

To improve its commercial approach, the council announced intentions to increase innovation, financial flexibility, commercial awareness, risk management, and effective use of new technologies. It said these priorities would help generate funds to protect essential services and deliver best value for its communities. Particularly, it emphasised the adoption of contract management processes to manage supplier relationships.

It emphasised the importance of developing skills within the council, which would cut across the previous priorities by embedding procurement skills into the organisation. This included helping suppliers, particularly SMEs, bid for council contracts by making procurement processes fit for purpose, lean, and accessible. 

The report listed actions including:

  • Updating tender documents to include information on the benefits of local procurement;
  • Reporting data on local spend to ensure the proportion of local suppliers increases;
  • Breaking up large contracts into smaller packages to become accessible to SMEs;
  • Requiring tenderers to demonstrate carbon reduction strategies in both operations and supply chains;
  • Implementing a new contract management framework which will help manage supplier relationships, evaluate alternate delivery models, and monitor contracts to assist with strategic planning;
  • Reviewing and enhancing procurement and contract management training to cover all aspects of the procurement lifecycle;
  • Updating guidance to cut across all priorities and enable procurement staff to implement other objectives effectively.

The strategy said: “This Procurement Strategy aims to make things easier. Procurement should be an opportunity, not a hurdle.”

It added: “The importance of effective and efficient public procurement has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic and it can play a significant role in the island’s economic recovery.

“The economic landscape has changed significantly due to the impacts of the pandemic and it has never been more important to ensure our local businesses are supported and that the council continues to procure good value and good quality contracts to deliver better outcomes for local people.”

Liverpool City Council also recently underwent a procurement transformation after its policy was described as “fragmented, overly complex, and poorly understood”.

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