Public sector spend | making every penny count

21st April 2021 Posted by

Public sector spend works hard, it delivers vital services for communities and individuals across the country, and never has that been more prevalent then over the past year as we battle COVID-19.

As we start to look beyond the pandemic and move into a period of recovery, public sector spend will continue to be hard pressed and yet it’s purpose will become ever more important, as the need to recover alongside the dual crises of climate change and social inequality will need the public sector to wield it’s purchasing power like never before.

That’s one of the reasons the government released the public procurement note (PPN) in September 2020, to build upon the Social Value Act (2012) and set a benchmark that all central government spend must now evaluate the social, economic and environmental benefits being created through its expenditure. This is to be set against the new social value delivery model with five key themes to provide a consistent approach to evaluate defined priorities through contract procurements and delivery. The five themes are:

  1. COVID19 recovery
  2. Tackling economic inequality
  3. Fighting climate change
  4. Equal opportunity
  5. Wellbeing

I would be surprised to find a local authority that wasn’t prioritising any of these as part of their corporate strategies, yet each will be taking action against these in different ways to meet the needs of their local area. This is because a local authority knows it’s communities, their challenges, it’s leaders and where the opportunities lie to making change happen far better than any other body, public or private. And it’s for this reason we recently created the Social Value Guide for Environmental Services with Eunomia. In our combined experiences, particularly in recent years, when a local authority sets clear priorities based on what it’s communities need during a procurement process, using a clear understanding and application of social value; real, meaningful deliverables are created. This is because a supplier is pointed in the right direction, but can then apply their experiences, knowledge and creativity to the process and offer solutions that really meet that local need, rather than peppering a tender with “bid candy” as I’ve heard it called, simply to make the response look more appealing and score a few points.

Great examples of this are the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), who for its recent household waste treatment service exercise used the authority’s nine social value outcomes to give bidders that clarity. This enabled us to focus our efforts on 54 separate outcomes related to each or a combination of these, ranging from apprenticeships and training opportunities to a reuse hub. The hub will not only help to divert more reusable items into a second life, but will also create employment and training opportunities for local people, while also working with the third sector, delivering a valuable long term solution for seven of the nine social value outcomes.

While in a similar vein the Somerset Waste Partnership highlighted the importance of supporting their aging population, and as part of our proposed solution we are currently training our staff on dementia awareness through the Alzheimer’s Society. This is because as a service many people feel reassured by the regular site of the truck and the familiar faces of their regular crew, especially at a time when their world is becoming confusing and less familiar, so we are equipping our staff to help and support someone if they need us.

It’s easy to forget that recycling and waste services are not just about bins and trucks, they’re about people and communities; we provide sanitary services to protect public health, create employment and opportunities for individuals to grow and we come into contact with every household at least once a week. Yes, a service needs to ensure its collecting bins on time or providing good customer service, but it can be far more than that – and social value provides us with an opportunity to utilise local understanding and supplier experience and expertise to really drive outcomes that deliver meaningful benefits for local people and the environment.

The Social Value Guide explores all of this and far more using a cross sector perspective from local authorities and contractors alike. Whether you are a planning a procurement or looking to enhance service delivery, social value has huge potential if we understand it and apply it in an informed and consistent way to really harness the power of public spending as part of a green and just recovery.


Blog by Sarah Ottaway, Sustainability and Social Value Lead at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

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