Government procurement teams are responsible for managing billions of pounds of public expenditure, in fact, every year £300 billion is spent on contracts for public services.

What is value?

Thinking about how the Government gets ‘value for money’ out of this procurement spending is an important exercise. Value has previously perhaps been too narrowly defined as price. There has been a welcome shift in thinking and this year the Government has launched a new model to deliver social value through it’s commercial activities.

£30 billion per year for social good

Central government organisations should use this new model to take account of the additional social benefits that can be achieved in the delivery of its contracts. A 10% minimum weighting should be applied for social value using policy outcomes aligned with the Government’s priorities. Various policy outcomes are listed in the Procurement Policy Note published in January:

  • Covid-19 recovery
  • Tackling economic inequality
  • Fighting climate change
  • Equal opportunity
  • Wellbeing

Tech procurement and social value

Tech procurement is a huge part of Government spending and, potentially, an outstanding way to realise social value. But in order to achieve this potential procured technology must be fit for purpose, accessible and inclusive. The possibility of mainstreaming assistive technology through the power of public procurement is tantalising. Reducing the disability employment gaps is one of the policy outcomes listed as desirable against the theme of equal opportunity. Widespread, accessible, fit for purpose technology that allows more disabled talent into the workplace would be a prize for us all. We must prioritise a collaborative approach by putting the people who rely on a product or service, at the very centre of its design.

What next?

The National Disability Strategy proposed a Commissioning Taskforce, chaired by the Champion of the Social Value Act, Claire Dove CBE, and in March next year a Disability Crown Representative will be appointed to help “procurement spend to drive improved outcomes for disabled people”. At the same time, the Strategy states a new an ambition to ‘help make the UK the most accessible place to live and work with technology’.

Also next year, a Procurement Bill is promised. The devil, as always perhaps, will be in the detail but sometimes the most interesting things lie in the most unexpected places and whilst ‘transforming procurement’ may not sound like a radical social revolution I think it might be the way that we achieve just that.

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