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TOPIC: Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money?

Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money? 3 weeks ago #1

The Public Services (Social Value) Act passed in February states for the first time all Public Bodies in England and Wales are required to consider how the services they commission and procure might improve the economic, social and environmental well being of the area. Does that mean commissioning will now look more holistically at the true cost of their actions or will lowest price be considered best price and the preferred option?

Re: Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money? 2 weeks ago #2

I would hope that the Public Services (Social Value) Act, will give commissioners the tools they need to look at the added value within tenders in a more holistic way. Third sector organizations often work within a wide remit to provide their services. This extra value is fundamental to the Health and wellbeing of local people who use their services. Many local organizations have considerable expertise in their own areas and a wealth of local knowledge that has been built up over many years. It is important that this is recognized and utilized as part of best value, rather than just commissioning purely on price where much of this knowledge and experience may not be present.

Re: Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money? 1 week, 6 days ago #3

The simple answer is, I think, that GOOD commissioners will see this new Act as an enabling mechanism to be creative: using co-production, creating new delivery vehicles, building in social requirements. We've been after it for many years. BAD commissioners (or those 'old skool' procurement-wallahs) will see it variously as a nuisance, a huge risk, another few entries to write on a procurement report, and/or something that doesn't apply to their service area.

If you read Cllr. Steve Reed's (Leader of Lambeth Council) article in the New Statesman this week - www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012...eart-labours-renewal - you'll see that he talks not about doing MORE for less but doing DIFFERENTLY for less. Good commissioners will already being doing things differently and be chomping at the bit to be even more radical. Bad commissioners will be recoiling in horror that their 17-layer risk-avoidant procurement procedures will be thrown into disarray, and be terrified that they will face challenges from unsuccessful bidders. Ideas like cooperative councils send process-driven bureaucrats into a frenzy of risk-averse panic.

The real challenge in implementing this Act is not to let the mediocre people [continue to]) dictate the agenda but to let the creative people lead the way. The job of the procurement people should be to figure out how it can be done, not to tell us it can't be done...

Re: Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money? 1 week, 4 days ago #4

Through the Street Angels - CNI Network I see the massive impact volunteers can have within 100+ communities across the UK. Local people taking responsibility for local issues have passion and drive to go above and beyond time and time again.

To echo David Cameron at our recent Big Society Award winners event - the Third Sector should really be the First Sector as often the voluntary sector deliver services, such as health care and education, that are then taken over by the Public and Private Sector.

To have a corporate social responsibility that works with the local community is a must - not a take over bid but real partnerships that put wider community needs and values at the heart.

Re: Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money? 4 days, 14 hours ago #5

This topic arose recently at a leadership training event I attended, along with about 15 local authority staff and one other VCS delegate. It led to a very interesting discussion about moral purpose, and how that influences any organisation's decision-making. We wondered how many local authorities start their commissioning discussions with consideration of their moral purpose, or whether each authority had a collectively acknowledged one. This is not to claim the moral high ground for the VCS; simply a recognition of different ways of working and reasons for existing. Very often, VCS organisations, particularly small ones, have arisen to meet specific needs of a community that they know and understand; need comes first and is followed the generation of funding to meet it. They might not have the systems in place that a local authority needs for monitoring - but this wasn't why they were established, and they will need help to deliver what a local authority needs, though this might cost more. When a funding opportunity or contract comes along, charities have to consider whether it is within their mission and vision; if not, they should have the courage to reject the opportunity, however tempting the money may seem. Perhaps the new Act will mean more commissioners having a clear, agreed mission and vision, against which they devise their contract specifications, alongside the bottom line.

Re: Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money? 1 day, 18 hours ago #6

I agree with pretty much everything said on this topic but would like to add a few points that highlight the prevalence of 'boilerplating' in bid writing, which seems to me to have developed a more or less standard format for writing briefs - particularly when aimed at the third sector. We have recently bid for a number of initiatives around the topics of setting up new mechanisms to maximise income and better money management with particular reference to alleviating fuel poverty.

Our experience (over 13 years in the field) has shown the need to attack this problem from a number of sides - in short to provide a holistic solution which includes: defining the clients actual and potential income, assessing the physical conditions of the home, creating a framework of financial measures, budgetting support and behavioural change to help clients access the best possible tarrifs and payment plans, provide debt counselling and representation, access hardship support where appropriate and finally, arrange for physical measures to be undertaken to improve the fabric and comfort of the home.

Try and find a brief that covers that lot!

I'd say that funders and commissioners need to take far more advice from the third sector in designing briefs that reflect the practical needs on the ground and say less about their own individual 'political' standpoint. Yes it is difficult, trying to see beyond an organisations self imaged representation of such diverse and complex issues like fuel poverty, social exclusion ageing and the slashing of essential funding to the most needy sectors and vulnerable people in our society. But it clearly needs to be done.

A classic example of a Govt Dept's self delusion can be found in the opening statement of DECC's ambitions for the Green Deal and the ECO - which, claims DECC, will reduce fuel poverty. Insulation and a bit of secondary glazing (which is more or less all that the most needy in this nation will qualify for - (see the Carbon Communities Reduction Plan criteria) - will not solve fuel poverty without the individualised socio economic measures outlined above.

Re: Commissioning cheap as chips vs. Value for money? 4 days, 12 hours ago #7

With the Public Services (Social Value) Act, social values are expected to be incorporated into the design of the services being commissioned or procured. This, we all hope, would allow good commissioners to be creative and inventive in commissioning for services which best respond to the needs and demand of the local community it seeks to serve. I hope that as most voluntary organisations already have social value linked to their work, the Act would mean that more voluntary organisations win contracts and run public services. This would require a lot of boldness, pragmatism and community understanding from commissioning bodies if commissioning for cheap is to be resisted.

That said, ensuring that commissioners go for value for money and resist cheap as chip would need the local voluntary and community organisations to understand the importance of the Act and use it effectively to hold local commissioners to account .
Hence, commissioners and representatives of the local community (patients’ groups, voluntary and community organisations) will need to play their part effectively for the outcome to be ‘A better & efficiently served community’.
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