By Joanne Peters

In my experience, despite lots of thinking and innovation, much of the way local government spends on services remains in siloed units of activity, such as beds, hours of care, packages of support etc. Too often, outcomes are secondary, and little is truly understood about the impact of these spending decisions. Instead, the focus is on constantly responding to crisis and many of these arrangements are supported by complicated and costly rationing mechanisms.

Alongside working with C.Co in its support for local authorities on change and transformation, I spend some of my time thinking about the world of sustainable finance and impact investment. Working at Cambridge University, I see ambition and innovation from students from the financial sector looking at how the financial system can pivot towards impact. In charities that run local council contracts I see how these ‘investments’ are playing out on the ground in local communities.

Does the Procurement Act provide a catalyst for change?

There is a real opportunity for local authorities to use their grounding in communities and the flexibilities of the Act to shift the focus of some of their spend to impact.

They can change perspective, from cutting up the budget pie into pieces to thinking about how some slices of the pie can grow into something bigger and self-sustaining. They can learn from outside the sector, as well as from other authorities.

This is a titanic shift and will certainly not happen overnight. There needs to be a fundamental change in relationships between local government and communities, a gear shift in collaboration, innovation and a stronger focus on upstream thinking and prevention.

For many local authorities there is an ambition in place and an understanding of the potential. Of course, putting this into practice is a challenge, often thwarted by ever increasing levels of crisis and need, decreasing budgets and limited availability of the skills and capacity needed to drive the transformation.

What does this require?

Understandably, the initial focus of implementing the Procurement Act will be on compliance. Getting the basics right, understanding the new rules and obligations, making sure policies and procedures are in place and that procurement and contract arrangements meet the changes to requirements will be prioritised.

Does this also present an opportunity to assess the authority’s ambition and how the procurement function enables the delivery of that ambition?

Shifting procurement function from gatekeeper to strategic enabler

Getting the thinking and skills in place to support this, shifts the maturity of the procurement function from gatekeeper to strategic enabler.  What does this shift look like?

  • Understanding the interconnections, feedback loops and levers for change within the organisation, across organisational boundaries and in real world complexity
  • Being able to better measure, analyse and understand impact, and how that relates to current and future service delivery
  • Expanding understanding and recognition of value, for example to include biodiversity
  • Shifting from the typical transactional focus to an approach based on relationships and collaboration
  • Developing and embracing more agile models and mechanisms to factor in learning and change to purchasing arrangements
  • Creating the space for testing and innovation
  • Maintaining sturdy guardrails that limit exploitation and misappropriation of flexibilities.

Get in touch with us today for a conversation about how C.Co can support your organisation.