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#BetterforUs – placing people at the heart of procurement

AB - Aspire employee[61]

Aspire employee

AB - Aspire employee[61]

Aspire employee

Author: Dr Katharine Sutton

Aspire’s #BetterForUs campaign focuses on how the public purse can be used to create better work for frontline workers who are, all too often, stuck in low paid, low status jobs through the procurement process.

As a community business, that derives the majority of its work through the public procurement process, Aspire and its employees have used their experience to develop a campaign that advances equity for communities and individuals that have historically been discriminated against by “mainstream” labour market structures and institutions.

None of this requires additional funding, but it does require a shift in mindset and priorities to bring about change to ensure that everyone has an equal right to economic opportunities.

Using the public purse for public good

Over recent years local communities in London and around the world have faced unprecedented challenges: increasing poverty and inequality, a global pandemic, climate challenges, public service crises and the cost of living crisis. Those who bear the brunt of the impact are those who are stuck in destitution, poverty and the low paid, low status jobs that abound in the everyday economy.

Using the public purse or spending power to promote public good, ensuring that social and environmental outcomes are considered as an integral part of assessing value for money is increasingly recognised by governments across the globe to be an important part of building trust with citizens and part of the solution to solving these wider challenges.

Last month, the Procurement Bill received Royal Assent. It replaces current legislation (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), which was based on European legislation. The Act, due to come into force in October 2024, provides the opportunity for comprehensive action to be taken by public authorities to adopt holistic approaches.

Fine words now need to be followed up by practical action. Aspire has developed a simple five point pledge for equity in the everyday economy:

Aspire 5 points

Rewarding vital work done

Recognition that people in the everyday economy are doing a vital job requires respect.

Respect can be demonstrated using contract conditions that require the payment of the Real Living Wage and Good Works Standards. In London, the Mayor of London’s Good Work Standard- the first of its kind in the UK - accredits organisations that measure themselves against a set of criteria including fair pay, working conditions, employee well-being, training, progression and diversity. It's free for organisations to use. Yet only 142 employers have signed up representing 225,000 workers according to its website.

Public value purchasing can be achieved through promoting positive action and reserving contracts for organisations that support disabled and disadvantaged workers under Section 32 of the Procurement Act 2023 (similar provisions are contained within Regulation 20 of the current Public Contract Regulations 2015). This an important market-shaping provision that enables authorities to work in collaboration with local communities to develop alternative economic institutions that promote economic justice.

Public value purchasing can be achieved through promoting positive action and reserving contracts for organisations that support disabled and disadvantaged workers under Section 32 of the Procurement Act 2023.

These could be run by not for profit organisations such as Aspire or by mainstream employers seeking to develop programmes that promote diversity and equality within their labour forces.

Procurement for community public good: a guide

Looking at the wider economic and social implications of commissioning means involving the community more closely in the commissioning process by providing for citizen voice and the voice of lived experience to be heard and acted upon within the process. Aspire has produced a guide to communitising procurement.

Over the next two years Aspire will be working on a number of activities designed to bring about practical change that makes a real difference to people in the everyday economy. This includes political lobbying, research, providing information and a guide to the new Act. In its early stages, Aspire is asking organisation that support its pledge to get in touch by email at better@aspirecomunityworks.com.

For more information visit www.betterforus.org.uk

Trust for London supports Aspire’s #BetterForUs campaign