The Prime Minister announced on Tuesday 22 September a new range of restrictions to protect us from the Covid crisis, some of which will apply to charities.
The guidance is little more than a précis of the social and environmental aspects of European procurement rules as implemented by the Regulations (and, if you don’t want to read the guidance or the Regulations, perhaps read our earlier précis here). But it is regardless a far more enthusiastic approach to social value in procurement to come from central Government than the caution and conservatism that has historically been demonstrated.
The guidance demonstrates a recognition from Government that social and environmental considerations can be brought into the procurement process in a range of ways and at all stages of the process, including:
- reserving contracts to businesses that employ disabled or disadvantaged workers, or to organisations with a public service mission;
- incorporating social and environmental requirements into the specification – including appropriate use of labels;
- the exclusion of candidates because they are not compliant with relevant environmental, social and labour laws;
- applying contract award criteria that are relevant to the subject matter of the contract (including a specific acknowledgement that fair trade requirements may be relevant);
- the use of life cycle costings that include environmental and social factors;
- the rejection of an abnormally low tender if it is abnormally low because the tenderer is not compliant with relevant environmental, social and labour laws;
- the use of social and/or environmental contract performance conditions;
- suitable contract management arrangements to encourage (and hopefully ensure) compliance with social and environmental requirements.
There are some useful “FAQs” included in the guidance to supplement the description of relevant parts of the Regulations, covering compliance with environmental, social and labour laws, compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and a consideration of the reserved contracts rules (under which competition can be ringfenced to organisations that employ, as at least 30% of their workforce, individuals who are disabled or disadvantaged). This last confirms our preferred approach to defining what “disadvantaged” persons are (as the term is not defined in the Regulations), which is to refer this to the term as defined in State aid law, is an acceptable way to proceed. “Disadvantaged”, therefore, can relate to people in long-term unemployment, the 15-24 age bracket, the over-50s, lone carers, and even gender where there is a gender imbalance within an industry, to name but a few.
Because it is outside the scope of the Regulations, the vital pre-procurement stage is not considered, however – meaning the guidance lacks any discussion of the importance of the wider commissioning process in terms of potential pre-procurement engagement with potential contractors, users and stakeholders to shape the procurement and the subject of the contract, and application of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 before the procurement has actually commenced.
This guidance is a helpful description of the opportunities that the Regulations offer to achieve better social and environmental benefit from public contracts, but it is not a practical guide. It is, though, a hopeful first step from the UK Government in its journey towards understanding the positive social and environmental benefit that public procurement could achieve. As a next step, we would welcome guidance from the CCS about integrating the Regulations into, and reconciling them with, related domestic legislation, including the Social Value Act and Part II of the Local Government Act 1988 (non-commercial considerations).
Following the end of the possession stay on 21 September, Helen Tucker & Rebecca Sembuuze from our housing litigation team discuss the most recent guidance, priority cases and what to expect in court.
Covid-19 has resulted, on the whole, in a marked co-operation between contracting authorities and their suppliers as everybody focuses on maintaining delivery as far as possible.
Employment Tribunal rules in favour of claimants in minimum wage case – has the interpretation of “working time” changed?
As we enter a recession, we have been here before, and a key question is what did we learn and how can we benefit from that learning?
It is anticipated that as lockdown restrictions ease, and particularly with children and young adults returning to education, cases of meningitis will start to rise.
As we continue to emerge from lockdown measures and deal with local measures and the short and long term economic impact of Covid-19, local authorities will need to re-assess how services will be delivered for years to come.
The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
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