Careful councils can still deliver big public events with prudent procurement: Sarah Sesum

As local authorities grapple with increasingly tight budgets, public events and festivals could easily fall by the wayside and be viewed as surplus to essential services when setting budgets.

However, in our current challenging economic conditions, it’s essential to recognise the far-reaching benefits that these events can bring to our communities and local economies.

The key for local authorities planning to deliver events successfully in 2024 will be understanding procurement requirements and how strategic purchasing can provide the best return on investment possible. This will be especially important in the context of increased scrutiny on public spending and upcoming changes to procurement legislation.

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Sarah Sesum shares her expert insightSarah Sesum shares her expert insight
Sarah Sesum shares her expert insight

From employing temporary staff to attracting visitors, events can inject an often much-needed boost to local communities and businesses. These benefits can be enhanced further when local businesses are used as suppliers to deliver products and services for event collateral.

The route for local authorities to compliantly procure the services of local suppliers has not always been straightforward. Adhering to procurement regulation is clearly of the upmost importance to ensure public money is spent responsible, but a traditional framework could sometimes be seen to limit the availability of compliant suppliers local to an event organiser.

Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) are therefore an important tool for SMEs and councils alike.

These systems are regularly updated with new suppliers across the UK to ensure that the best value can be delivered to the public sector for specific areas of spend – something that is particularly useful for smaller item purchases like food and drink vendors or waste management contractors, which can often be needed for events.

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Understanding where a DPS can be used as an alternative to a framework will enable local authorities to procure for events using local suppliers where possible.

From local festivals to religious celebrations, marking significant events plays a vital role in enhancing communities. However, clearly measuring the full impact of these events in relatable terms can be challenging. Intelligent procurement can play an important role in sharing these success stories.

Like many other public sector purchasing organisations, YPO builds ways to encourage suppliers to consider their social value as well as their financial value into its awarding criteria. As part of YPO’s buying exercise, there is weight put on social value, with a high award criteria of 10.5 per cent. The outcome of this at the start of the buying exercise ensures supply chains for public sector purchasing are diverse, sustainable, ethical and free from modern slavery.

There are also more immediate impacts to local areas where events are being held that can be measured and shared. Whether it’s a park cleanup pre or post event, investment in or the introduction of new facilities, or increased street lighting, events often have longer lasting improvements than many expect. Better street lighting can also be integrated with smart technology such as SmartWatch cameras to help make our streets safer. With integrated lighting and sensors, they can sound the alarm to alert security personnel, meaning that violence on the streets can be tackled in real time.

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Laws around the hosting of events are continuously changing to ensure the safety of the public. It is imperative that organisers across the public sector understand what is legally required to ensure events of any scale can be delivered safely and compliantly.

One of the upcoming changes in legislation to be aware of is Martyn’s Law, which entered consultation this year and follows learnings from the Manchester Arena bombing enquiry.

This law will require event organisers hosting events with a capacity of 100 or more people to show evidence of their preparedness for a potential terror attack. This will take into account access controls, physical barriers, emergency procedures and training of staff to respond to terror emergencies.

Failing to take appropriate action clearly has safety implications, but could also lead to legal penalties.

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Local authorities that are unsure of what is required under these changes can approach procurement organisations for consultation, as they are well placed to ensure that the necessary safety and medical supplies for events can be provided.

Looking further ahead, local authorities need to consider how upcoming procurement reform changes will impact spending plans.

While many processes will remain the same, or similar, there are some fundamental changes coming for everybody to observe. Staying informed of the latest developments of the procurement bill, and how this will impact your purchasing, will be integral to navigating the new landscape effectively.

With over 50 years of experience, supporting major events like the Rugby League World Cup and UCI Championship, YPO is well placed to help local authorities navigate these changes and offer a way for councils to generate growth locally, as well as create long term social value in the supply chain.

Sarah Sesum is Strategic Procurement Manager at YPO

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