Wigan Council

Applying Progressive Procurement to Support Community Wealth Building

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

Through The Deal, Wigan Council has been practising elements of community wealth building for years. We may not have recognised it, or even intended it, but its ethos is one that aligns strongly with what it means to be Wigan. Through the community investment fund, and the social benefits it has brought, to the raising of standards in our care homes via the ethical homecare framework, we have examples of driving social value through innovative services which we should be proud of. Progressive procurement is a key part of Wigan Council’s Community Wealth Building strategy and a means through which greater economic, social, and environmental benefits can be achieved.

Core to our approach are locally rooted businesses who are the building blocks to a flourishing local economy. We have made the procurement process simpler for potential suppliers to bid for opportunities and we use the procurement of goods and services to benefit our local communities. A common aim and shared vision with our partners has enabled us to put our procurement at the centre of our plans to create an inclusive economy. Working with our anchor partners across the borough, we agreed to use the public money that is intended for Wigan to tackle our greatest challenges and create a fairer economy. We want to use procurement to achieve wider financial and non-financial outcomes, including improved wellbeing of residents, communities, and the environment by considering social value in all our contracts. SMEs and social businesses did not understand the local government expectations and requirements in relation to procurement so did not bid for contracts. The challenge was for them to gain an understanding of the opportunities and to work with the council and our anchor partners.

A partnership of anchor organisations based in Wigan borough has been established to help this aim. We have worked together to publish a procurement pipeline, promoted procurement training to suppliers and Wigan businesses (and held specific training for the VCSE sector) and joined forces to hold a Meet the Buyer event following the publication of our commissioning intentions/procurement pipeline. This partnership consists of: Wigan Council, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Shared Business Services, Wigan and Leigh Community Charity, Wigan and Leigh College, NHS GM Integrated Care, GM Police, Groundwork Wigan and Leigh, Wigan Youth Zone.
In addition to this we have tried to involve the partnership and communities in responding to issues in innovative ways.

A SOUP event is a neighbourhood/ city/ borough/ town/ community-based crowdfunding event. The premise behind the concept is simple: 4 pre-selected project proposals each have four minutes to present their idea and answer four questions from the audience. The project proposals can be about anything—there are no restrictions, other than the idea has to be related to and contained within the area in which the SOUP event is being held. After the presentations, the audience sits together over food (hence the name ‘SOUP’) and discusses the ideas they have heard. Each attendee votes for the idea they think is the best, and the winner takes home the entry money which has been collected from the door to turn their ideas into a reality.

We wanted to utilise the SOUP model to host an event to generate new solutions and get new people and organisations involved in responding to a problem or opportunity we/or other parts of the public sector has identified, rather than it being an open forum for community-improvement ideas.
Instead of taking home proceeds from the door, the winner of the vote is awarded a contract of <£5,000 (any contracts over this amount will be discussed with procurement). We wanted to utilise the talent and creativity of the local business community, VCSE sector, entrepreneurs, and residents—anybody who has an idea— to encourage innovation in areas where we have identified a gap and create a collaborative situation. The focus on contracts supports our Community Wealth Building agenda by reducing reliance on grants and encouraging sustainable business models.

We ran our first event back in March ’22 under the banner ‘Help for Carers’ and awarded £5k to a project run by ‘Groundwork Wigan and Leigh’ which provides respite for carers in the Ambers wood Nature Reserve. Wigan Council has also established a “Business Consortia” group of local businesses to share learning and to be the voice of business in the borough. This group feeds into the Anchor partnership. We believe that the Wigan anchor partnership has gone the extra mile in partnership working.

What are the key achievements?

Through our anchor partnership we started to unlock the power of procurement by publishing our commissioning intentions and delivering procurement training to local businesses. For the past 2 years the anchor partnership has published this information online to support local businesses by providing them with a longer lead time to prepare and submit a tender. This is an ongoing commitment, and our commissioning intentions will be published each financial year. We published our commissioning intentions on the Council’s website, ‘The Chest’ procurement portal and the Government’s‘ Contract Finder’ website. The page on ‘The Chest’ received 161expressions of interest from parties interested in working with Wigan and the Council’s website received close to 200 views.

In March 2022 we delivered free procurement training to over 50 local businesses and VCSE organisations to support them to access public sector procurement opportunities. The training provided guidance on the often complex procurement process and helped local businesses to understand public sector procurement.

In May 2022 we hosted a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event for over 500 local businesses and VCSE organisations. This offered the chance for local businesses to speak with exhibitors from the public sector, private contractors, and business support providers. Attendees at this in-person event met with various commissioners and discuss how to become part of the supply chain for contracts with the anchor partnership.

Exhibitors with stalls at the ‘Meet the Buyer’ event included: Wigan Council: Be Well Memberships (gym and leisure offer),Wigan Council: Corporate Property, Assets and Greenspaces, Wigan and Leigh College, Crown Commercial Services, NHS Shared Business Services, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Supply Chain, Wigan Council: Our Town Community Noticeboard, Wigan and Leigh Community Charity, Wigan Council: Operational Depot Stores, Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, Wigan Council: Supporting Skills and Future Team, Constellia, Procure Plus, Wigan Council: Local Kitchen, Wigan Council: New Build and Regeneration, North West Construction Hub Framework and Galliford Try, Beijing Construction Engineering Group International (BCEGI UK), YPO, Department for Work and Pensions, Wigan Council: Business Engagement and ‘Invest in Wigan’ Team, Wigan Council: Highways, Wigan Council: Provider Management and Market Development, Adult’s Social Care and Health, Wigan Council: Children’s Services, Wigan Council: Foster For Wigan, Wigan Council: Procurement and Services for Schools, Pagabo. The feedback on this event was overwhelmingly positive. Businesses seemed to value all of the anchor institutions of Wigan being present to discuss their commissioning intentions with interested parties.

The idea behind inviting so many national framework providers was to help businesses to succeed not just by winning contracts with the Wigan Anchor Partnership but from across the UK. By joining frameworks that may support their business to succeed in these difficult economic times.
Beijing Construction Engineering Group International’s stall was very popular with attendees as they have been awarded the contract to redevelop Wigan’s town centre and as part of that contractual award are tasked with delivering on key social value objectives. They used this event to link in with local businesses to deliver elements of the programme.

The Department for Work and Pensions and Wigan and Leigh College did a fine job promoting apprenticeship offer to businesses. Plus, the college offered bespoke packages of training to companies investing in the borough (children’s residential care providers). Many businesses in attendance signed up to Andy Burnham’s “Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter”. Wigan Council’s “Our Town Community Noticeboard” was highlighted to over 500 businesses. This platform facilitates organisation swishing to give something back to the community to link in with community groups / charities seeking help with projects. A match making service of sorts. This platform is promoted to organisations bidding for contracts with the anchor partnership. The Council has analysed our spending over the past 2 years to demonstrate the impact of our progressive approach to procurement and established the following:

– % Procurement spend with Wigan based suppliers is now 24%.
– The number of Wigan based suppliers has increased by 30%.
–  % Procurement spend with SMEs is now 59%.
– The % spent with SMEs has increased this year.
– % Procurement spend with VCFSE is now 10%.
–  The amount spent with VCSFE sector has increased to £4m.

Finally, in collaboration with our anchor partnership, we developed a shared Social Value Charter which outlines our key principles and provides a framework for measuring social value.

How Innovative is your initiative?

The partnership approach of bringing together the anchor institutions of the borough was innovative. The feedback was that seeing the buyers of Wigan working together was encouraging. Whilst we have experience of hosting many pre procurement events prior to tendering for significant contracts the ‘Meet the Buyer’ event focussed on promoting the new partnership to businesses and to share with them forthcoming opportunities.

The turnout from the framework community to help businesses flourish was solution focussed and framework suppliers were impressed by the number of businesses looking to engage. The offer of procurement training to Wigan businesses and VCSEs in order to help them to respond to public sector opportunities was a proactive response to small businesses struggling with the Standard Selection Questionnaire and to foster an understanding of where to look for public sector contracts. Many companies were unaware of “The Chest” Procurement Portal or of the array of frameworks they could link into. In response to this lack of knowledge we have hosted a framework directory on the Council’s website to help businesses and Wigan’s “Invest in Wigan” team share this framework directory with businesses when they engage with them.

It was a response to an existing problem and has been well received. The procurement training and the event broke down barriers between buyers and providers. It also fostered a better understanding between the anchor partnership. So now Wigan Council and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are in discussions about energy supply and about the shared use of CO2 mapping software.
The SOUP concept is an interesting and innovative way of identifying issues and to agreeing a community response to the identified problem. The fact that ‘Groundwork Wigan and Leigh’ are a partner member and wished to help is testament to the emerging strength of this new partnership.

What are the key learning points?

Through our partnership approach, local businesses are engaged and see the benefits of building community wealth and social value to develop a resilient local economy. By using progressive procurement, we have been able to redirect spending back into the local economy and increase our spending with Wigan based suppliers. It is important to agree clear objectives with partners which are achievable and allow you to track progress and monitor outcomes. More engagement with businesses is required to identify exactly what support and training is required. Detailed discussions are needed to understand the barriers for local business and the challenges they face. We need to do more analysis and will be following up with our business and framework providers to understand how many local companies have expressed an interest in.

Businesses welcomed the partnership approach to the buyers for Wigan coming together to meet potential providers. This approach could be replicated by other Contracting Authorities. The procurement training was extremely well received with the forthcoming Procurement Bill perhaps more of this could be delivered to support businesses to respond to future opportunities. The partnership enables a sharing of learning and fosters more engagement on other issues.

Additional Comments

Our procurement training included one session specifically designed for the VCSE sector and resulted in a Wigan based charity ‘Happy Smiles’ successfully bidding for a contract with the Council. They will be the Independent Consultant for Wigan’s Equality Strategy (£20,000).