23 October 2023 | Collaboration | Our Work

Collaboration to deliver social value discussed at Strictly Highways

Representatives from public and private sector took part in a panel debate about collaborative social value delivery during Strictly Highways earlier this month.

The session formed part of an initiative launched by the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) which looked at how far the highways sector has come in embedding social value and where challenges still lie.

Eleven years after the introduction of the Social Value Act in the UK, panellists talked about what is next for social value and how to take it to next level.

Rachael Atkin, Head of Social Value at Colas, delivery partner for the social value series, said: “There is still an issue around how social value is embedded in contracting and how the procurement methodology drives either effective or ineffective collaboration.”

The panel talked about maximising social value delivery through collaboration and consistency in order to get the most out of it for communities. Amanda Richards, Assistant Director for Highways at Surrey County Council, said: “In our term maintenance contracts now we have a specific person whose role is Community and Place Manager. I think it is difficult for all of us who have a day job to do that justice alongside everything else that we do as well. The other thing that we [Surrey County Council] have done is to get them to have an informal alliance with each other.”

The panel also discussed the importance of having good relationships between the client, contractor and local services. Tracey Greig, Employment and Skills Senior Manager at Leeds City Council commented: “Relationships are so important because once you understand local needs, you can make a lasting impact.”

The panel were asked about the skills shortage and whether localism should be a priority in recruitment. Amanda Richards said: “We all know that there’s a skills shortage so having a social value focus on schools and employing diverse and inclusively – that’s going to help us as an industry. So it doesn’t have to just be what does that community need but if we can build the the right highway service with the right resources, that is providing social value to the community as well.”

When asked how can we ensure that social value requirements are proportionate to contract value, Sean Rooney, Head of Service – Highway Maintenance at Oxfordshire County Council said:  “It has to be scalable.” “It is taking that flexible approach. We need to bring it back into the service that is able to deliver that and the relationships around about the monetisation versus the actual delivery on the ground. What are we trying to achieve? Are we trying to achieve the betterment of the supply chain’s next tender assessment or are we looking to deliver something that is on the ground and making a better community and allowing it to flourish in a better fashion?

“We’ve all been doing social value for quite some time, in a different stance or in a different guise. It means different things to different people but the important thing is the benefit and the flourishing of the community, the environment and the economy.”

The panel were asked for their thoughts on what more can be done to facilitate collaboration between various council departments engaged in supporting communities. Rachael Atkin said: “It is very different from council to council. Finding good quality services to work with across the board is a big challenge. It’s key to our success that we’re not the experts in how to do pre employment support with a homeless person but there are great charities that are. It’s knowing our place within that relationship and the guidance that we get from local authorities when we get into that department is absolutely crucial.”

You can watch the recording of the panel debate, which is now available on demand here.

Social value series

The series kicked off with an invitation-only virtual roundtable discussion with councils invited to discuss how social value is being delivered, and how collaborative social value delivery can respond to future challenges faced.

Rachael Atkin, Head of Social Value at Colas examined how the measurement of social value is changing as the industry becomes more mature in approach to social value, ten years on from its introduction to procurement.

A webinar on the topic of ‘Rebooting Social Value’ which took place on the topic of ‘Rebooting Social Value’ is also available to watch on demand here.

Image – LCRIG (L to R – Sean Rooney, Amanda Richards, Tracey Greig, Rachael Atkin)