STAR Procurement

A New STAR is Born 

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

In October 2023, Knowsley and St Helens Councils joined STAR Procurement as our fifth and sixth Partners in the STAR procurement shared service. This is a 50% increase in the size or STAR and involved complex legal, governance, finance and HR workstreams to get this across the line within the agreed timescales. STAR Procurement is now a six partners strategic procurement shared service delivering positive outcomes for all our communities and residents.

STAR had been actively supporting both organisations over the past twelve to eighteen months providing differing support of both operational and strategic procurement through Service Level Agreements. A STAR internal due diligence process was undertaken and the conclusion drawn was that both proposed partners are a good fit for STAR. Both Partners are mature in terms of procurement and are ready to mobilise their organisation to embrace the opportunity to secure support and success from compliant and effective procurement. A review of the current STAR ‘as-is’ position had also been undertaken and concluded that STAR could grow under its current governance of a delegated joint committee and the operation is legally compliant.

The STAR Procurement Business Plan for 2021-24 comprises of five objectives and this growth of STAR helped us to deliver on all five of our objectives:

Supporting Communities:
– Provides additional opportunities to deliver greater Social Value across new and existing Partners
– Consistency in approach meaning procurement opportunities will be more accessible to local businesses
– Will create the opportunity to review the structure and STAR operation thus leading to the creation of an improved operating model, roles and responsibilities etc. and will create employment and development opportunities. There may also be some natural wastage which can contribute to the budget position and re alignment of the structure

Deliver Commercially:
– Full cost recovery meaning no additional costs for existing Partners
– The commercial offer based on safeguarding our current activity and to ensure a continuous improvement approach remains to the existing four Partner Councils
– Costings will be based on anticipated activity and workload as well as TUPE costs and implications and therefore may not be the same as existing Partners
– Greater spending power and influence to help drive efficiencies from new and existing suppliers from greater collaboration and becoming an even ‘bigger buyer’
– On-boarding and mobilisation costs will be charged to new Partners to ensure additional resources and support needed during this phase are funded by them
– By growing in size, this strengthens the critical mass, which may allow and lead to further expansion from ‘coalition of the willing’

Build collaboration:
– Expands the collaborative approach outside of Greater Manchester thus expanding across the Northwest
– Large spending power of two Authorities will create additional economies of scale through collaboration
– Skills, experience and expertise of new staff TUPE transferred into STAR providing greater resilience and workforce diversity

Provide confidence:
– Have a tried and tested approach to mobilisation and on boarding that was successfully implemented for previous growth
– Have undertaken detailed due diligence on proposed new Partners
– Minimal governance changes required to on-board new Partners i.e. amendments to Inter Authority Agreement
– Detailed implementation and on-boarding plan, risk register, and financial/resource monitoring will be undertaken to support this growth

Be Courageous:
– Promotes STAR and its Partners as a successful shared service
– Continue to be national leaders in procurement and shared services

What are the key achievements?

The key achievement is that we have a successful pan-regional six partner procurement shared service that is successfully delivering outcomes to residents and communities. A detailed implementation plan was developed for the on-boarding to ensure that the implementation was managed effectively. Implementation was on a phased basis commencing with a pre-phase to mobilise the new Partners and full integration into the shared procurement service by October 2023, a month ahead of anticipated timeline. Dedicated resources were identified within STAR to help drive this in a planned and a methodical way with robust project management tools and processes in place. Followed the complex governance arrangements ensuring transparent decision making and early support from senior officers and members.

There were 11 staff affected by TUPE linked to the Fifth Partner and Sixth Partner joining as a member of the collaborative procurement service. With support provided by Trafford HR the TUPE transfer has been undertaken on time and all staff originally identified have transferred over. The new staff have embedded very well into the team and adapted superbly to the new ways of working, with the support of the full STAR team being welcoming and supportive. By working with both new Partners in advance, we had already begun process for aligning CPR’s, Procurement Strategy, standard templates, and social value approach. Financial terms agreed fairly and transparently with new Partners, underpinned with robust financial modelling and forecasting.

Successful launch and publicity of our growth and new Partners, including internal and external communications
Collaboration Plan in place to drive further efficiencies and savings for all Partners. This was all done whilst delivering on our other programmes of activity including:
– Further embedding Social Value and developing robust reporting procedures with Social Value Portal
– Secured other income and delivered commissions for new and existing clients including Bury, Anglesey, Manchester and Birmingham Councils
– Delivery of savings of nearly £6m in 2022/23
– Retained local and GM spend at 78.9%
– Preparation for the implementation of the New Regulations
– Secured 38.5% Social Value return on contract value
– Linking Social Value into STAR local authorities Corporate Priorities through their Social Value Charters
– Carbon Literacy Accreditation attained within our STAR workforce
– STAR Director is the Chair of the National Social Value Taskforce and STAR contribute to Social Value working groups nationally
– Further developed our Grow Your Own policy through the implementation of career-graded posts to drive retention and recruitment
– Successfully recruited to all vacant posts
– Presented at the national LGA conference and National Social Value Conference

How Innovative is your initiative?

STAR are the first and only pan-regional shared procurement service in the UK, possibly the world! Whilst many expected and supported STAR to grow, few expected this to be with Authorities outside of Greater Manchester. However, having worked with both Knowsley and St Helens over the previous 12-18 months we knew they would be a good fit for STAR and STAR nwould be a good solution for them. Saying that, we all understood that this was a risk and that we were pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo with this growth.

The complexity and speed of the growth did present a number of challenges:

Governance – All existing Partners and both new Partners needed full Council approval in place for growth to take place. This required significant work to align meetings dates, undertake briefings, attend meetings and ensure all the separate governance requirements were met. The same report went to almost 30 different meetings.

Staffing/HR– The last time STAR grew was in 2018 with the on-boarding of Tameside but the agreement with Tameside was that no staff would TUPE transfer. In this case, there would be the TUPE transfer of 11 staff, requiring support form HR colleagues and significant consultation and engagement with new staff. It also required good communication with existing staff to allay any worries and fears they would have.

Communications – It was really important for us to communicate well both internally and externally. We wanted to be clear with both new and existing stakeholders as to the timelines, approach and changes that were coming. A robust communications plan was developed and implemented. There were mis-communications and rumours along the way, but due to the good relationships were had built we were able to address those quickly and resolve before they became significant.

Finance – Robust and transparent financial modelling and forecasting was required to develop the commercial offer for the new Partners. This was needed to ensure full cost recovery but also to ensure a commercial and fair position. Other complexities included the existing reserves, existing partner contributions and the costs of on-boarding as well as ongoing revenue payments.

Stakeholder Management – existing stakeholders expressed concerns that growth would impact negatively on the existing service they received form STAR. Thanks to the TUPE transfer of staff, the robust mobilisation plans, stakeholder mapping and engagement and detailed due diligence, we were able to respond to these concerns and provide assurances on level of service.

As stated above, the ‘Business as usual’ activity for STAR continue to progress and outcomes such as savings and social value achieved. As with any innovation, there were significant risks to be addressed, and no assurance it would happen until all Partners had approvals in place, staff had transferred and the new Inter-Authority Agreement was signed. This took a lot of hard work, drive and trust to get this over the line. 

What are the key learning points?

We had captured the lessons learnt when we on-boarded Tameside in 2018, and used this as a basis for the mobilisation and implementation plan for this new growth. The lessons learnt with Tameside provide invaluable as we planned and strategized for this growth. But we also leant new lessons along the way, including:

– The importance of a robust communications plan to keep all stakeholders in all Partners updated to avoid rumours and hear say
– Early and honest engagement of staff, senior officers and members
– Undertaking robust due diligence on STAR and our new Partners
– Having a clear business case in place for growth
– Calling in expertise when required i.e. legal, finance, HR
– Being aware that not every issue needs to be resolved immediately
– Having dedicated project management support to manage the programme and complex governance procedures

These lessons learnt have again been captured to help set solid foundations for any future growth and development of STAR. Although STAR is unique in its current form, elements of it are replicable and applicable to others. Importantly, STAR demonstrates that collaboration does not need to be just with neighbouring Authorities, it can be with Partners within the Region or outside of the Region. What is more important, is the alignment of goals and outcomes, not geography. Procurement professionals often get infuriated because we don’t get involved at an early enough stage with other stakeholders project and programmes. However, the same applies for us and the importance of early engagement with professionals that can provide expertise, whether that be finance, project management, IT, HR, legal etc. Procurement don’t always have the answers, and efficiencies are made by asking the right people, the right questions and at the right time.

Additional Comments

The success of growth can be summarised by Rob Banks, who transferred from St Helens to STAR, “When I was identified as transferring to STAR I was worried I would lose my friends who were going into other areas after many years of working together and did not know where or if I would fit. Since joining STAR all my worries were unfounded, in fact STAR Staff where so supportive of me and my situation, it felt like coming home, but to a better home than I ever knew. “