A better road, a better world

Dominic Browne speaks to Cllr Angeliki Stogia of Manchester City Council to find out about the journey asphalt can take towards improving society.

In 2015 Manchester City Council increased its weighting for social value considerations in its procurement process from 10% to 20% – with 40% given to quality and 40% given to cost – helping to ensure companies and organisations bidding for contracts have to give social value serious consideration.

The Manchester City Council Social Value Toolkit states: ‘Potential suppliers will be scored on their “offer” back to Manchester’s residents which can be either as: “Social Value in Kind”. Depending on the size and nature of the contract this could range from offering a work experience placement to a high school student to agreeing to take on a number of apprentices as part of a large scale construction programme. Or where suitable “Social Value Fund”. Offering cash contribution in lieu of offering “Social Value in Kind”.’

In short, there are a range of potential social values a contractor can offer, large or small, soft power or hard cash. One way or another, they need to make a social contract with the city.

As of Friday 13 October, an oddly auspicious day, a host of contractors landed places on Manchester City Council’s £200m Highways and Infrastructure Construction Works framework. And once again the city used its principles of social value to help its citizens.

The framework is due to run for four years and is worth around £50m per annum. All 10 councils in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority can use the framework, which has eight lots covering construction and design services and value bands ranging from up to £500,000 to more than £5m. Transport for Greater Manchester is also set to use this framework as a key element at the heart of Greater Manchester’s growth.

Executive member for the environment and skills, Cllr Angeliki Stogia, who helped spearhead the process, said: ‘Our infrastructure framework will ensure that major civil engineering projects for Manchester deliver quality, value for money and maximum social value for our residents. We look forward to working with the successful bidders to provide better highways for Manchester, while at the same time, creating new jobs and training opportunities for local people.’

Cllr Stojia tells Highways that the council had placed an emphasis on social value through the framework, including local spend, employment and training as well as environmental sustainability.

She adds that the schemes on the framework would be subject to further ‘mini invitation to tenders where we will drill down and be even more specific in terms of social value and what the commitment will be’.

Works on the framework include the Manchester and Salford Inner Relief Route to be delivered on behalf of Manchester and Salford city councils, as well as improvement works on Hyde Road and Great Ancoats Street.

The framework currently covers around £200m worth of contract awards for all works.

‘This is a realistic figure. Greater Manchester is at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse and could invest a lot more to unlock growth, especially on housing constraints, and we are keen that central government allocate more funds to help re-balance the economy,’ Cllr Stogia says.

Manchester has also won £5m from the National Productivity Investment Fund to address a longstanding bottleneck around Princess Parkway and Mancunian Way and that cash could also go on the framework.

Through work with Manchester City Council, companies have increased spend within the city boundaries from 51.5% in 2008/9 to 61.9% in 2013/14. Spend with local SMEs was £246m in 2015/16, which equates to 56.5% of spend with the councils top 300 suppliers. To put this in context, the Government’s most up to date figures show 27% spend in 2014/15 with local SMEs through national projects, Cllr Stogia points out with pride.

She tells Highways: ‘Different councils see procurement as a tool that is potentially bureaucratic and there is a focus on getting the cheapest and most efficient service or product. In Manchester City Council we are particularly linking procurement to other social, economic and environmental challenges and the aspirations we have for the area. About 10 years ago we started to look at making efficiency savings and politically we had a desire to place procurement at the heart of our corporate strategy in order to enable us to have a different narrative around how we picked suppliers.

‘Every time we have works we monitor and have discussions with companies on how they have performed. This has helped us to produce the Social Value Toolkit. We continuously have discussions with our suppliers on how they find the process.’

Among the potential outcomes Manchester is looking for from highways contractors are local apprenticeship hires, for example specified commitments on local employment or commitments on how they plan to use apprentices as part of standard operations, commitments on local employment and training as well as environmental commitments and the use of sustainable materials and recycled asphalt pavement. The city is also looking for commitments towards the living wage and away from zero hours contracts.

Cllr Stogia formerly worked at the New Economy think-tank, which provides strategic economic guidance for the combined authority, and she is keen to see the public sector take up a role of influencer in the private market.

‘Procurement is an excuse to help us realise our goals and influence the market. As a council, you need to be seen as a leader. If the council doesn’t do it, how can we expect others to look at buying local and helping with training and skills?’

While there is, on the face of it at least, a lot of overlap already with the private sector these days, there is no doubt that her work and that of Greater

Manchester’s in leading the way on social value is paying dividends. What is a road after all, but a local pathway to where you want to go?

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