Agenda item

Socially Responsible Procurement Strategy:

To conduct pre-decision scrutiny on the Strategy.


Scott James and Steve Robinson presented the report and answered the members’ questions with Cabinet Member Rachel Garrick.


On p1, Chepstow is missing from the list of the 6 main settlements?

Apologies, that is a typo: Chepstow should be included.

Regarding the Top 10 spend categories, would showing percentages also not be useful?

The chart is there in a ‘holding position’, so we will take on board the comments about the percentages.

Could we have further detail about the measures and delivery targets?

There will be a lot of small steps in terms of progress to deliver e.g. carbon, which is a significant challenge in all authorities. We are looking at the practical steps that we can take to support delivery. The delivery plan is mature now in its main contents but the key thing to agree is the additional support we can get from across the authorities – there is still a limited amount of resource. The key activities to pursue are fairly well-defined but those elements are still to be worked through. Fair work is a key area of focus for the new Social Partnership & Public Procurement bill. Work is ongoing; some of our officers are working with Welsh Government on developing the social clauses that will be required to go into contracts. The main point coming through is the importance of following up through contract management to ensure that those clauses are being complied with.

Is there a difference between the proposed legislation in UK and Wales? The UK legislation won’t have an impact on Wales?

The UK government legislation will apply to Wales. Welsh Government, in consultation with the Welsh public sector, took the decision that rather than developing its own regulations, it would work with the UK Government. Work on the development of the Welsh legislation concerning the Social Partnership & Public Procurement bill is being done in tandem, so that the two pieces of legislation are complementary.

Does this strategy include or encompass schools and school purchasing?

Schools purchasing isn’t excluded from the strategy.

Is the delivery plan different for each local authority or will a common paper be rebranded for each?

3 strategies have been developed in conjunction with each other. The initial draft of the strategy and delivery plan has been informed by Cardiff, and vice-versa – that is the benefit of the collaboration. We are often trying to achieve the same things but are at different levels of maturity i.e. where Cardiff is advanced in an area we can bring that learning to the benefit of Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

What mechanisms are in place for the monitoring and enforcement of contract compliance?The 7 objectives seem to be in separate silos – how are they being integrated, to be put into practice?

One piece of work has been to look at governance process key controls; several pieces of work are ongoing. We have a robust governance approach in Cardiff so are picking elements that Monmouthshire would benefit from and looking at how to bring them in, which will be linked to the delivery of training and development of documentation and processes. Delivery of the strategy will involve the development of new tools and education. We would look to draw elements together e.g. opportunities around carbon reduction, inclusion of social value within tenders, etc. contract management is a key area – we have clear thoughts on how to implement some of that in Monmouthshire.

Back to the relationship between Cardiff, Torfaen and Monmouthshire – would it be more transparent to be branded as a joint purchasing consortium strategy?

We have had that discussion. Under the new Social Partnership and Procurement Bill, it will be a requirement for an authority to have a procurement strategy. They aren’t opposed to multiple authorities having a shared one but we opted for 3 separate strategies – the authorities have appreciated having a clear focus for themselves. But we can look at it for future revisions. Something to bear in mind though, is that a shared strategy is reliant on the 3 authorities all wanting one.

In the breakdown of local spending, where has the source data come from? Is it available for viewing?

We have improved the quality of our spend data and its analysis over the last 10 years, and we have started to bring our experience to bear on Monmouthshire’s spend data. The local spend data is based on postcode information, with the analysis carried out by the Cardiff resource that looks after Cardiff’s data.

Will it be reviewed on a quarterly basis?

We will look to improve the quality, reliability and access to data. We use a tool called Power BI to present a lot of the spend data, and have presented the first iteration to the strategic leadership team in Monmouthshire. We will refine and improve that over the next year.

How does the £98m annual spend compare to previous years?

This is fairly consistent over the last 2-3 years – approximately £100m.

Regarding the high turnover of staff and mix of skills, is there a shortfall? A need to invest in staff? What is the current picture in terms of staff turnover?

Recruitment and retention of procurement officers in Welsh local government is one of the most challenging issues. Typically, people can earn £10-20k more outside local government. In Cardiff, we have proactively run a placement programme with University of South Wales to bring 2 students through on their gap year to come and work with us. This means we’ve been able to recruit, on the basis of ‘growing our own.’ If we go out to the open market we will not be able to recruit people to the required standard. It is certainly a challenge. We are out for 4 new category managers currently.

With regard to the mix of skills, it is incumbent on all of us in the collaboration over the coming years to work on people’s skill basis. For example, we all need training on carbon capture and conversations with industries about carbon reduction plans. We are more than mindful of the need for additional training. Our budget holders need to understand the market in which they are procuring.

One of the key objectives of the contract with Atebion was the benefit of that knowledge and capacity in the short-term, and over the long-term, ‘growing our own’ and developing our own capacity and capability. Will the delivery plan touch on that development, or be in a separate paper?

We are actively out to recruitment at the moment, working with the local university to provide a pipeline of talent into the team. In terms of the wider authority, Monmouthshire has a devolved procurement resource. We have had a number of discussions about the best way that we can support it. There is a training session this week to support the development of Monmouthshire officers who are regularly involved in procurement activity, and we are looking for their feedback about whether we are hitting the right information that they need. We also have an initiative called Buying Responsibly that we would like to develop across the 3 authorities.

Has there been any coproduction or feedback in terms of the SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) and third sector from our authority in the shaping of the strategy?

We’ve not involved organisations directly in the strategy’s development. For local businesses we have focussed on improving accessibility and visibility of opportunities, trying to make the process easier, and them working with other organisations such as Business Wales. As part of the delivery plan we’ve set out specific actions aimed at finding out from SMEs where they need support. For example, with Cwmpas we are going to do a survey across small businesses and third sector (in Cardiff, initially) to understand what the key barriers are for doing business with Cardiff. We would then like to do that work with Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

In the breakdown of local spend, 57% is within Monmouthshire/Gwent region – where is the other 43%?

We have the information as to where spend is not being retained in Wales. One piece of work in the delivery plan is to look at where spend is going outside Wales, whether there are authorities that are retaining more of that spend, and why. Where we recognise that spend consistently goes out of Wales we are keen to see what opportunities there might be working with our economic development colleagues and the CCR to see where there are opportunities to develop some of that capacity in Wales as well.

Regarding the Foundation economy, what is our thinking in terms of growing that commissioning market locally, or looking at balancing more provision in-house, long-term?

We have had discussions already in Monmouthshire about food, for example, recognising it as a  priority area. Concerning in-house provision, there is currently a big focus on in-sourcing. How we develop our workforces to meet the need going forward is a key challenge, and something that we have been focussed on in recent years.

Some things in the report could be clarified: ‘long-term impact’ – meaning a negative impact; avoiding unnecessary jargon for the sake of accessibility for residents; mentioning ‘climate and nature crises’, though only the climate crisis has been formalised by the council.

We will pick up these points.

Of the £98m, £70m is on human resources – can you unpack that?

HR is a broad category that includes spending on agency staff, different contracts for a range of professional services, etc. The category structure is called ‘ProClass’, used by Atamis, the Welsh Government sponsored national spend analysis system – the data goes from Monmouthshire into Atamis, and back to us. We need to consider whether HR is being described in the most useful way.

Concerning the collaborative work since 2021 with Cardiff and Torfaen: has enough time passed yet to be able to point to successes? Is there something that can be communicated to residents?

Things haven’t progressed as quickly as we would have liked. We have needed to build in improvements from the bottom up to get basic operating models progressed. We have focussed on progressing the development of the strategy, improving the visibility and reporting of spend data, training, etc. We had hoped to link some of that in with technology developments, particularly regarding the underpinning processes, but some of that work has been delayed. Much has been progressing and will come to fruition in the next 6 months. Supporting delivery around the contract pipeline has also been important; the ongoing recruitment process should put us in a strong position going into next year. The learning that we have done is to the benefit of all 3 authorities. Carbon is an area where we are all struggling but in terms of our thinking, focus and acquired knowledge we are in as strong a position as anywhere across the public sector in south Wales. The challenge is turning our intention and planning for where we want to go into reality.

Chair’s Summary:

Officers should bear in mind that the residents of Monmouthshire want to know why we’ve done things and what the benefits are – they might want to ask what role Procurement has in that Procurement Performance will come to the committee on 17th January – officers will be able to further clarify the team’s thoughts and successes then.

The committee agreed to move the report.


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