Global economic and environmental instability and the policy responses to this are focusing minds on what can be done to make communities more resilient locally. As public sector resources are squeezed, there is a need to achieve ever-greater value for every public pound. There is also growing recognition that achieving maximum value for taxpayers’ money is not just about the highest financial value. Politicians and professionals are realising the need to achieve the ‘triple bottom line’ of the greatest economic, social and environmental benefit for every pound.
Using community benefits in procurement can be one of the most effective ways of ensuring the £175 billion spent on public sector procurement in the U.K. can have wider social, environmental and economic benefits than the object of the procurement itself. It is about adding value and unlocking potential. It is about supporting local economies, promoting employment, skills and training, developing communities and minimising environmental damage. It is about social well-being, economic resilience and stewardship of place. It is a virtuous dynamic process in which local government can play a leading role. Indeed the Office for Government Commerce has published a Policy Through Procurement Action Plan (January 2010) aimed at ‘harnessing public procurement to deliver key policy agendas concerned with fair and sustainable economic growth and recovery’, which the Government announced in the 2009 Pre-Budget Report (PBR). Achieving benefit through procurement has become a driver of economic recovery and forms a key element of the recent White Paper on employment.
Sustainable procurement does not have to cost more than standard delivery of contracts. It is far more meaningful to consider value in terms of whole life costs and better social, economic and environmental outcomes. APSE’s previous work with CLES on the local economic footprint of public services shows that £1 of public spending can generate £1.64 in the local economy through employment and supply chains. If councils achieved community benefits through their procurements, that figure could rise to £2.
While some of the obstacles in the way of delivering a triple bottom line are undoubtedly practical, others are associated with culture and mindset. When we embarked on this research we were conscious of the legal constraints imposed by the EU procurement regime as translated into U.K. law. But we were also conscious that this is often used as an excuse for a risk-averse approach to delivering community benefits through procurement. In a previous publication entitled Maximising Local Potential, APSE and Eversheds showed how local authorities could achieve community benefits through the procurement process and examined the best means of delivering such benefits within
the boundaries of the existing legal framework. This time we were keen to look at practical examples of how councils have been achieving those wider community benefits.
We have identified some excellent examples of how councils have achieved benefits such as promoting local supply chains, developing employment and training opportunities and achieving environmental sustainability. This really is about creating a ‘can do’ culture. Achieving community benefits through sustainable procurement requires commitment at all levels; at the corporate leadership level, among procurement and legal experts and among those responsible for delivering services. This is not just about procurement. It is about innovative, holistic and strategic approaches to broadranging local government policy.
In this guide, you will find examples from councils already breaking ground in achieving community benefits. You also will find useful checklists and lessons learned to assist with formulation of your own strategic approach and implementation. We hope you find this publication useful in helping to use community benefits to deliver better bang for the diminishing public buck.