21 July 2022 | Collaboration | Our Work

View from the top: A Procurement Masterclass

Since before our Innovation Festival I’ve been talking to Members about how we should be building decarbonisation, innovation and social value into mainstream highways delivery. This becomes even more critical when our Members are procuring goods and services from the private sector because if these elements are not specified then you are almost certain not to receive them. With the new Procurement Bill set to be law in 2023, we are going to be given the freedoms to design a procurement procedure that fits precisely with our needs as a sector, as the new Bill contains some relaxation of the more prescriptive parts of the previous EU procurement regime. So, with all of this in mind I’ve been talking with the legal procurement experts, Anthony Collins Solicitors (this firm provided us with the much-needed advice on how to establish ourselves as a CIC), about how we can draw these strands together to make our £6bn spend on highways maintenance go further in these particularly testing times. The discussions with ACS were fascinating as it was absolutely clear that integrating innovation, social value and decarbonisation into our contracts is achievable – either via retrofitting or a new procurement.

I know that some of our Members find that securing decarbonisation and linked innovation/social value is challenging in practice, particularly as individual authorities are doing this in silo with little learning from the good and bad examples out there. Where does collaboration or co-operation between authorities fit in and could this enable greater carbon reduction/£ ? From a procurement perspective there are many options – most of which aren’t complicated.

On the question of how do you “contract for it”? Simple – make sure decarbonisation/innovation/social value is part of the Specification – it is then part of the subject matter of the contract so can legitimately be part of the procurement award criteria. Furthermore, this can be backed up through KPIs/incentives/disincentives to give “teeth”.

But how do you “make it happen”? Less simple, but it comes down to follow through of contract management. If the procurement + contract are there that gives contract managers the tools to push contractors to deliver on innovation etc. but without follow-through on the client-side it’s unlikely any contract will come close to achieving its full potential.

I’m thinking a Procurement Masterclass with the likes of ACS might help us to shape a more sustainable future for highways, so watch this space.