Officer presentation by Duncan Whitfield, Strategic Director of Finance and Governance and Doreen Forester Brown, Director of Law and Democracy. A report on procurement and social value is enclosed.
An officer report, to note, on business statistics on micro, small, medium and large business and employment rates is enclosed.
The Commission received a presentation from Duncan Whitfield, Strategic Director of Finance and Governance; and Doreen Forester Brown, Director of Law and Democracy. The chair then invited questions.
Officers were asked how Brexit would impact on procurement law and future plans. The Director of Law said The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 adopted the present procurement rules going forward for large contracts; there maybe a further relaxation later to promote local suppliers.
A member asked how Human Trafficking is being tackled. Officers explained that here are four paragraphs on Modern Slavery in the Southwark Council’s Fairer Future Procurement Framework; these include whistle blowing and a commitment to terminate contracts with convictions.
A member expressed disappointed that the awarding of contracts to BAME organisations has been an issue for the last ten years but she has seen little progress in achieving equality. The Director of Law responded that it is hard to judge if progress has been made or not, as the data dose not capture this. A member said her observation is that there are BAME sub contractors rather than BAME lead contractors. The Strategic Director said the Fairer Future Procurement Framework was an ambitions programme that has a social value element, which includes BAME employment. The weighting for social value will be 15% going forward giving the council important leverage. Commission members said adequate data monitoring is crucial to monitor diversity in the awarding of contracts. Officers indicated this could be a review recommendation.
There was a discussion on the BAME indicators that the council ought to be monitoring. One member said that he thought the priority ought to be ensuring that the business employment policies are good, rather than measuring the protected characteristic of individual business owners, which do not necessarily translate into better employment practices. Directors are also more likely to be in a good socio-economic position, whereas he thought inclusion for people lower down the scale is more of a priority. Another member said that monitoring at director level and seeing if it is representative of the broader population is a good measure and indicator of equalities progress, and that data capturing and monitoring ought to consider both employment practices and the diversity of business owners. Officers highlighted that the procurement function is devolved to different department and this creates challenges in monitoring. Some of the smaller contracts also require a quick turnaround too.
A member said that the Blacklisting and Construction charter commitments are very good and ahead of many other councils; scrutiny could test the implementation of the commitments. She asked if large providers are expected to have similar policies around equal opportunities. The Strategic Director said implementation is tested through the audit process. This uncovers good practice as well as issues to improve.
Members asked if there was monitoring of apprenticeships. Officers said it is not as consistent as it could be. All contractors over 1 per million are required to have at least one apprentice. Members suggested this is low. Officers said that in many industries, such as the building trade there will be more, however in IT, or other similar specialised industries, it tends to be lower. A member raised concerns about the Shard and the monitoring of the construction training and apprenticeships that that arose from this.
Officer advised that apprenticeships are one approach to social value - there are other measures. Social value implementation is in development so this is timely review.
The chair thanked the officers for their presentation.