Liverpool City Council is set to make changes to the way it designs projects and contracts for suppliers, going beyond financial considerations to ensure agreements deliver economic, social and environmental benefits.
This could include requirements for support or training to be provided for the long-term unemployed, businesses giving careers advice in schools, sharing building space with community groups, donating time or money to local community schemes, or improving green spaces.
Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, said: “Every year the council spends approximately £600 million on the delivery of vital goods, services and works – and we need to strengthen our approach to social value. There are already some fantastic examples but we know it is not embedded consistently across all departments.
“Too often there is a focus on the cost of a contract rather than the wider benefits it brings for residents, such as helping create a safe and clean community and giving residents access to a good quality job.”
There will be a new requirement for larger contracts to give a social value weighting when they are assessed, and a drive to encourage smaller, more diverse suppliers to work with the council.
The council is starting conversations with potential suppliers and sectors to explain how the policy will work and the type of measures it will look for, and will invite feedback to inform improvements. The approach will be phased in gradually across the council, so that processes and guidance can be refined before wider roll out.
The policy is part of Liverpool council’s Strategic Improvement Plan, following recommendations made in the government’s Best Value Inspection. The report expressed particular concern about the application of social value in the council’s contracts and property deals, and stated that social value must become more integral to how the council works.
Government social value legislation has been in place since 2013 but in a BBC interview, Anderson said: “Public authorities aren’t very good at utilising it.”
“We weren’t making the most of these opportunities,” she added. A report presented to the Cabinet said the social value policy sets out ambitions which go beyond these legal requirements.
Anderson said she has already asked for more social value from some contracts since she became Mayor last year, including one with consultancy PwC.
She explained: “I asked PWC about what more they could do for us. They have an apprenticeship programme which is typically accessed by children from the best schools. We helped them target the most disadvantaged schools and they delivered a development programme which lifted the confidence of these young people. They were given a computer to keep, a pathway to paid work experience and the opportunity to apply for the apprentice programme.
“The social value produced from this experience has far reaching consequences, particularly in addressing the skills gap in the longer term.”
The social value policy will not be limited to procurement but will also apply to broader activities, such as the design and delivery of services, use of the council’s buildings and land, and how grant funding is targeted and awarded.
“This is about making every pound we spend go further and recycling the gains through communities across Liverpool, and working with our contractors to help them deliver on their corporate responsibility, building wealth and assets within our communities,” Anderson said.
She added: “This is an ambitious policy and will take time to fully integrate across the organisation, but the benefits for the city will be transformative.”
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