New legislation that will require public sector procurers to consider opportunities to deliver economic, social and environmental spin-off benefits through the delivery of contracts should help construction companies by creating more standardisation and an emphasis on measuring outcomes, contractors hope.
The Public Services (Social Value) Act came into effect on 31 January, covering all public bodies in England and Wales. It applies to most contracts and framework agreements, irrespective of value, but allows bodies to disregard the Act if the work has to be procured urgently.
Contractors have found that public sector clients’ expectations on social value – such as training apprentices, employing local SMEs or sprucing up public areas – vary considerably and can deliver questionable results.
But Mick Williamson, managing director of Willmott Dixon Partnerships, the contractor’s long-term maintenance division, hopes the Act will bring in a more robust approach to social value.
“Some local authorities and Registered Social Landlords already do an awful lot without being asked, but others don’t. So the Act will put more focus on delivering social value through procurement.
“The question is will it be measured successfully in the selection process – the jury’s out on that. We also think clients should measure contractors against the commitments they make in the tendering stage, and hold them to task.”
Willmott Dixon has produced Transforming Communities, a blueprint for how procurers can align construction projects with the needs of the local community. The paper will be distributed to social landlords from next week.
Williamson said the document would guide clients on what is achievable on social value, and where they should be challenging their construction contractors.
He was speaking at the launch of the Willmott Dixon 4Life Academy in Aston, Birmingham, which aims to provide training and lifelong skills to 2,000 people a year.
The academy is part of a commitment to invest in communities where it has a major presence. In the Midlands the company employs 1,000 people, including 22 apprentices, and is responsible for the long-term repairs and maintenance of 60,000 properties for Birmingham City Council.
“If customers are giving us certainty of spend over a 5-10-year contract, we should be looking to give more back to them. It enhances the standing and reputation of the business in the local area, and also leaves more of a legacy,” said Williamson.