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Scrutiny committee calls for changes to council contracts

14 January 2015
Gavin Edwards Southwark’s scrutiny committee has published a report recommending a new approach to the way the council deals with contracts.

The committee has proposed that the council should prioritise ‘in-house’ services delivered by the council itself, rather than contracting out to external providers.

The committee has also put forward proposals to add ‘social value’ to contracts, meaning providers would have to meet targets such as creating local jobs and apprenticeships and signing up to the council’s Women’s Safety Charter. The committee has also called for more openness and transparency for council contracts, as well as improvements to scrutiny and monitoring of contracts.

Southwark Council has over 220 different contracts for a wide range of goods and services, from building new schools to employment support services to homecare for vulnerable residents. The committee’s report highlights some of the controversies the council has faced over the outsourcing of contracts in the past, some of which have led to drops in service quality and wasted taxpayers’ money.

In 2013 a sub-committee scrutinised the council’s handling of the contract for major works at Draper House, which led the committee to recommend changes to the way the council is able to terminate contracts with external providers when things go wrong. Labour's scrutiny councillors hope that the recommendations put forward in this report will stop controversies like Draper House from happening again in the future.
Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Gavin Edwards, said:

“The council spends £2.6 billion on contracts for goods and services and decisions about who is awarded these contracts have a big impact on the lives of people in the borough. We have taken some big steps forward on this issue since 2010, signing up to the Ethical Care Charter, introducing a Living Wage and ending several underperforming contracts. Yet, commissioning services in Southwark still needs to be more transparent, subject to greater democratic control and more engaged with what service users want.”

“The council needs to take more advantage of its spending power to promote equality and fairness, so we want to see targets set for creating local jobs and apprenticeships. Outsourcing to the private sector can be a risky business and this needs to be recognised. That's why we're recommending a preference for in-house contracts, ensuring that more thought is put into who delivers our services and who benefits from that."



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