Creating a local forum in Swansea is reaping benefits

Working with other Welsh public sector bodies and organisations has boosted social value, helped local businesses and improved professional development, says DVLA’s Andrew Falvey

As part of my role as DVLA commercial director, I wanted to foster better networking relationships within the public sector in the Swansea area.

I contacted a few senior people in other local public sector bodies – two universities, the local authority and the health board – some of whom I knew personally and others I plucked from internet searches, and asked if they would be interested in forming a group. Despite my cold calling, to my delight I received very positive responses and before long the Swansea Large Employers Forum was born. We have recently formed a sub-group of heads of procurement.

Five reasons why collaboration benefits procurement…

1. Sharing skills
We are in Swansea, not London where there are many procurement specialists. So unless people commute or relocate, we are all competing for the same people. 

As a forum, we are all heads of procurement for large employers. One thing we talk about is skills – could we offer our people secondments, then they have the opportunity of coming back or staying?

At more senior levels, it gets harder to find the right people. We do grow our own, and apart from a few leaving us for other public-sector organisations, our retention is high. 

2. Learning and development
Recruitment and retention is one thing but the other is learning and development, and sharing what we have learned with staff. We have several bespoke training packages that we share. As a group we foster support for our local CIPS branch, encouraging staff to attend branch events as part of their CPD to meet like-minded colleagues. The chair and several committee members are from DVLA and I’m really proud of the support DVLA gives the local branch. 

3. Supporting the local economy
Social value is all about how we can support local businesses and the local economy. But can we get smarter about employing apprentices and taking people off long-term unemployment? Can we look at keeping more of the pounds we spend in the Swansea area? Swansea is Wales’s second biggest city, and our public sector bodies employ more than 30,000. When you add on the local supply chains that support our organisations, it adds up to a huge impact on the working population. 

4. Leveraging buying power
If we’re going to market for the same commodities or services, as a group we may be able to optimise the way we approach the market. Having an awareness of collective buying requirements means we’re not competing against each other. We discuss whether to bid together or if it would be better to work separately, seeking to stagger our market approach to avoid unnecessary competition. 

5. Sustainability
We’re focused on green issues such as carbon reduction, water, travel and reducing plastic waste. Then there’s sustainability; supporting local businesses means there is less travel to provide goods and services, reducing our carbon footprint. We also have the ability to share supply chain knowledge to make sure we’re sourcing from ethical suppliers. 

As a group, we’re all from complex organisations, and having the ability to email or pick up the phone to someone who can advise, or simply help you to navigate to the correct person or team, is really helpful.

Working together brings huge benefits for all involved. We can share our experience – if you’ve been going for 15 years you’ll have a lot more collateral and learning than a new outfit. 

At the DVLA we have around 60 commercial staff – with 30 CIPS qualified and 25 plus doing CIPS qualifications. Others in the group have smaller teams, so we can support others to improve public procurement for us all.

If it benefits the public sector and the region, then why wouldn’t we do it?

Andrew Falvey was awarded OBE in the New Year Honours list 2020 for services to transport

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