A report by the Head of Procurement and Contracts.
The Portfolio Holder presented the report confirming that in March 2023, Council had approved its Annual Delivery Plan 23/24, which included a specific action to bring forward a Procurement Strategy for adoption. That had also been a key strand of the South & East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership Business Case, recognising that through joint procurement the Councils could deliver significant savings.
The Strategy was particularly important at the current time, given the scale of projects the Council has underway through the Towns’ Fund and Levelling Up Agendas; and the associated joint procurement opportunities with its partner Councils. The combined spend of the Partnership Councils on capital projects in the coming years would be in excess of £100million.
The purpose of this report was to present to the Committee the Procurement Strategy for the period 2023 – 2026. The Council had not had a Procurement Strategy in place for a number of years. By having this strategy formally in place, it provided a clear strategy for Procurement throughout the following 3 years. In April 2023, it had been formerly approved that the Procurement & Contracts service would be provided by Public Sector Partnership Services Limited (PSPSL). It had also been agreed within the SELCP Annual Delivery Plan. As part of that, a review noted that there was currently no Procurement Strategy in place.
The proposed Strategy focused on three key themes, being “Showing Leadership “Behaving Commercially”, and “Achieving Community Benefits”. The proposed Procurement Strategy also linked in with the National Procurement Strategy that was reviewed in 2022.
As part of the newly formed PSPS Procurement & Contracts service, a review of all organisations spend data and Contracts Register would be undertaken, to identify any opportunities for collaborative procurement. The strategy to improve this would seek collaborative procurement opportunities between the three client Councils which would be enabled by regularly reviewing spend data, as well as keeping the Contracts Registers up to date which would assist the team to forward plan. It would also educate the Procurement & Contracts team, as well as service users, to question whether there was a possibility for joint working on a project from the outset and it would review the possibility of setting up a Countywide Procurement group, that invited all Public Sector Organisations within Lincolnshire, to discuss procurement projects that could be done collaboratively, as well as sharing knowledge in general.
Committee were also reassured that the Strategy included supporting where possible, the Local Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who played a major role locally in creating jobs and generating income. They would be provided with efficient and effective information to allow those who were interested, to submit quotations / apply for tendering opportunities, ensuring the process would be simple to follow.
Committee deliberation followed which included:
Addressing concerns in respect of the potential of suppliers becoming a ‘clique’ with a regular base of providers or approved supplier list, the Head of Procurement and Contracts confirmed that there was no approved suppliers list in use. There was a data base of contractors (on the e-Tendering System used) where any supplier could register. The system included a coding system that suppliers needed to submit based on the service/works that they provided. When an opportunity arose for a requirement that a supplier had coded themselves to, they were automatically contacted to offer the chance to quote / tender.
The strategy would also ensure a more pro-active approach by maintaining a contract register, enabling triggers to be set in advance to highlight renewals of contract. The implementation of a risk register for higher value projects would enable mitigations to be pt in place early on.
There would be closer day to day working with the contract managers to provide a more efficient and improved performance with KPI’s and SLA’s in place.
Supporting the use of local suppliers a member questioned what measures were in place to assist them in understanding the complex application process, with many potentially being put off by requirements relating to health and safety, diversity and other pre-requisite information. The Head of Procurement and Contract confirmed that direct support was available with members of the team offering to visit their premises to explain the support they could offer to enable them to tender and the actual application document had been significantly condensed to simply the process and also split down into categories allowing the businesses to identify who within their organisation would need to complete the various sections. Furthermore business breakfasts were a further option to allow a presentation of how to supply to the Council.
On questioning the possibility of a points scoring mechanism to assist local suppliers to be competitive, a member was advised that whilst there was nothing omitting any business from tendering, the Council had a duty to the tax payer to ensure the best value for money contract was sourced and they could not just base their decision on locality they needed to consider the wider picture.
Clarifying the difference between the Strategy for the Council’s and the once for PSPS, members were advised that the Strategy for the Council would be agreed by the Councillors whilst the one for PSPS would be decided by the PSPS Board and had already been approved.
Responding to concern in respect of the exemption rule for decision making and a question on the level of influence of the team in respect of decision making, the Head of Procurement and Contracts confirmed that the requirements for an exemption decision sign-off had changed and a significantly more robust process was now in place requiring sign-off by a number of officers and members. The level of influence of the team was increasing as trust between the parties improved and they were a professional team, working for the Council whose advice was requested when any application was submitted for sign-off.
Members further praised the quality of the strategy tabled, noting that feedback reporting would be appreciated to monitor its outcomes.
That the Corporate and Community committee having considered the strategy, provided comment to shape its further development.