• Alastair Cooper
  • 3 minutes
  • 29/04/2022

Essex County Council: Winner of the Best Public Sector Leadership Award 2022

In September 2020, Essex County Council re-evaluated their procurement plan. They applied a new methodology to all procurements over £100k, the majority of their £1.2bn gross commissioned budget.

In less than 18 months, this new social value programme achieved commitments totalling £42m of social value.

The council was always compliant with social value legislation. But they found they could better leverage its £1.2 billion spend to influence how suppliers deliver contracts. They adopted the National TOMs and commissioned a plug-in tailored to the Essex economy.

They also put together a social value team, who had four key priorities.

  • Produce guidance and training for staff and suppliers
  • Publicly launch the social value programme
  • Implement a reporting tool
  • Transform the level of corporate ownership of social value

Webinars, presentations and updated guidance were provided, ensuring new staff understood social value procedures. A social value lead also supported priority contracts both pre-tender and in contract management meetings, providing a forum for supplier and staff feedback too.

Research on social value showed that a lack of understanding is inhibiting progress. Essex County Council created a ‘too big to miss’ festival of learning. The festival provided a platform to:

  • Address objectives
  • Launch new guidance and case studies for suppliers
  • Engage clients, raising their awareness of social value
  • Demonstrate the gravity of the council’s commitment to social value
  • Establish the programme’s credibility with high calibre keynote speakers and supplier experiences
  • Run targeted learning events for SMEs, charities & social enterprises, social care and technology vendors

It provided a platform for engagement with key internal and external anchor institutions. Their team formed much stronger relationships and a deeper understanding of the benefits of social value.

The council used Power BI to develop a dynamic social value reporting tool. It informs targeting-setting, and means they have now amended their procedures to score bids relative to their social value target of 50p to every £1 spent.

The reports are available on demand for all staff and management The council are now creating a community page in the report, extracting all supplier offers available to the community including schools, colleges, charities and community group.

Following internal engagement with Directors and Cabinet, the council has monthly meetings with the Sustainable Growth Directors to ensure they are aligned and supporting each others’ objectives.

So far, from 98 suppliers with 17 contracts (with a combined value of £447million), suppliers have committed £42 million of social value in their winning bids.

In real terms, this means 981 jobs, including jobs for care leavers, the long term unemployed, those not in education, employment or training, rehabilitating young offenders and for people with disabilities. Also, training opportunities, apprenticeships, expenditure with local SMEs and savings in CO2 emissions.

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