On 24 September 2020, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) published its latest Procurement Policy Note (PPN) requiring all Central Government Departments, Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies to take account of social value in the award of Central Government contracts.
The PPN follows recent consultation and introduces a new social value delivery model to ensure a standardised framework for evaluating the potential social value of a contract. In practice this is to take effect from 1 January 2021.
The PPN marks an overt shift in policy for government in that it expressly requires all new public procurement exercises to ensure that social value is ‘explicitly evaluated’ by reference to the social value delivery model and priority list of policy themes and outcomes. This extends further than the current obligation to merely ‘consider’ additional social benefits under the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. It also requires that a minimum weighting of 10% of the total score for social value must be applied.
Whilst the PPN is to be welcomed, in that it recognises that the public sector can better maximise social value through its procurements, this is an approach that has already been pioneered by local authorities and other public sector bodies. The PPN also only outlines the objectives and themes that are to be considered - further detailed guidance on applying the model is to be provided ahead of the January 2021 deadline.
This will be important as the emphasis in the PPN is on qualitative, not quantitative assessment - in other words, the quality of the social value aspect is far more important than the quantity. However, the establishment of objectives that are relevant and proportionate to the procurement in question and the transparent and objective assessment of such matters has often been challenging in practice. This will be particularly important if a weighting of 10% is to apply to such criteria.