On 10 June 2020, the Cabinet Office released its second edition of the Outsourcing Playbook (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/updated-outsourcing-playbook). The Playbook was originally issued in February 2019 and set out best practice guidance for the outsourcing of public services. Importantly, Version 2 has an expanded remit, applying not only to outsourcing but service delivery more generally (including insourcing, mixed economy sourcing and contracting).
Although the key policies from the original Playbook remain (relating to, for example, publication of commercial pipelines, risk allocation and pricing/payment mechanisms), version 2 includes new and updated content including in relation to:
- Delivery Model Assessments (previously known as ‘Make or Buy’ assessments): Version 2 includes a structured framework for departments to use when assessing which service delivery model offers best value for money. DMAs are not only required in a number of circumstances (e.g. when introducing new public services) but are also stated to be “generally good practice for all projects”.
- Pricing first generation outsourcing: The original Playbook introduced a presumption that a pilot should be run when outsourcing a service for the first time. Version 2 recognises that such pilots may not be practical or beneficial in all cases, and that a “pragmatic approach” must be taken, which may include a range of testing approaches.
- Building and maintaining successful relationships: New guidance has been introduced on this important issue, emphasising the importance of mobilisation, effective contract management and collaborative working,
The original Playbook was welcomed, both within Government and by suppliers, but limitations were identified in relation to the original version, including in this IfG report (https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/carillion-two-years) published earlier in the year. Version 2 is a good step forward. It acts upon some of the concerns raised in that report (most notably on piloting). However, its ongoing success is likely to be determined by the extent to which other, more practical, measures will be adopted (including the need for extra resources to implement the measures in the Playbook).
"The Outsourcing Playbook is a vital tool to ensure we can work effectively with the private sector to deliver the best possible public services and value for money for the taxpayer"