Market shaping for the commissioning of services

When it comes to commissioning frontline public services, the consideration of social value should provoke questions around whether a service should even be outsourced or whether it might best be delivered inhouse.

Whilst inhouse delivery of public services should be the default position, we recognise that localities, traditions and local economies are often very different. Commissioners should therefore seek to selectively involve organisations and individuals who, whilst not directly part of local government, are equally passionate about public values and offer some positive contribution to the delivery of public services – the use of co-operatives or community interest companies within social care, for example.

Where there is a case to go out to the market, however, there is an increasing role for commissioners to take a more “activist” position within the commissioning process to ensure that presence of extractive providers is minimised.

Case Study: Establishing a community navigation service, Knowsley Council

Knowsley have recently commissioned a community navigation service to help service users access support that is located within the community. Following a tender exercise, the contract was awarded to Innovate Volunteering, a local CIC.

Key to enabling this outcome – where a provider like Innovate Volunteering was able to win the tender – relates to the way in which the specification was designed. Within the specification document, for example, the council stated that the service should be located firmly within the community, fostering community connections and relations for the benefit of the community residents. They also specified that the community navigators should be a recognised and valued resource in the community. Consequently, by making these kinds of stipulations, this favoured more locally generative providers in the tender process.

Another key tool here, is the council’s use of local spend policies whereby for any spend classified as low value (under 5k) or intermediate value (up to £181k) it has a policy of awarding contracts to local providers. Given that the value of this contract fell within this envelope, it enabled the council to prioritise a local non-extractive provider.