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All together now...

The local government family has faced a period of unprecedented change in recent years which has presented challenges to all services, councils and their elected members. However, as always during testing times local government has risen to these challenges with new service delivery models emerging that continue to meet the expectations of residents in efficient and sustainable ways.

One such innovative venture is The Improvement and Efficiency Social Enterprise – iESE. Built on five years of experience of delivering £250m cashable savings to the sector, iESE is the first local government owned social enterprise. Previously funded by government through the Regional Improvement Efficiency Partnership programme and named Improvement and Efficiency South East, iESE transformed each £1 of public money invested into £5 efficiency savings for council taxpayers.  This approach to sector-led improvement was too valuable to let go and so a new model for delivering sector-led support emerged in the form of The Improvement and Efficiency Social Enterprise.

Wholly owned, governed and led by local authorities, the mandate of the new iESE is to provide services, support and innovation to councils while also providing a link to key markets such as procurement, social care, construction and waste and resources. It is uniquely placed to help councils the length and breadth of the country by accelerating the transformation of service delivery and the leadership of growth and prosperity.

Supported by Defra, the iESE waste and resources support programme is now recognised as a national lead in delivering knowledge transfer, direct support and market engagement to local authorities.

iESE is able to provide rapid improvement reviews for all waste services. With matched funding from DEFRA its Business Transformation Team uses a tried and tested methodology to deliver ‘bottom line’ savings to any council looking for new innovative solutions to maximising delivery and cost savings. Reviews are currently underway across the UK, with councils about to be invited to get involved in a second wave of support.

Additionally, the Waste Improvement Network ( now has membership from 92% of English councils and provides access to case studies, research studies, commodity frameworks, best practice, partnership guidance and more.

Thinking in broader terms, iESE recognises that in order for councils to really achieve major efficiencies there has to be a step-change in the way the market and local authority customers interact.

With a total market spend of approximately £1.7bn across outsourced waste, recycling, street cleansing, bulky waste and grounds maintenance services, local government has a real opportunity to harness this spending power in order to deliver improved services to residents at a better price.

Currently, many councils approach the waste and resources market separately and therefore lose the market leverage potential that their combined spend could have. Additionally this means that the waste industry is experiencing an inconsistent approach to procurement, making the tendering process an expensive exercise.

The first step by iESE to improve the relationship between the market and local authorities is its new Waste Management Services Framework.  The first of its kind in the UK waste sector, the framework is a procurement solution open to 141 local authorities across England looking to outsource their waste, recycling, street cleansing, bulky waste and/or grounds maintenance service over the next four years.

Designed alongside other iESE procurement frameworks that have successfully helped councils already save over £92m, this waste framework provides councils with the flexibility to specify levels of service and performance, while being tailored to local needs. It allows councils to award contracts in half the time, saves council taxpayers’ money and cuts through the red tape and bureaucracy that many find themselves having to wade through when going out to tender.

Jointly set up with the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), it has been partly funded by Defra through the wider iESE National Waste Support Programme and was supported during its development by both Keep Britain Tidy and WRAP.

Between May 2011 and June 2012, iESE worked with key stakeholders, local authorities and suppliers to establish the building blocks of the framework, culminating in a rigorous OJEU process and the appointment of ten suppliers to the framework in June this year:

The iESE suppliers

  • Amey Cespa
  • Bryson Recycling
  • Cory Environmental
  • Enterprise Managed Services
  • FCC Environmental
  • London ReUse Network
  • Quadron Services
  • Sita UK
  • Urbaser
  • Veolia ES (UK)

The framework suppliers are able to provide a complete range of services to local authorities via standard terms and conditions, pricing and performance mechanisms and template specifications.

Through a fully OJEU compliant call-off process, the 141 authorities can procure their contract from the 10 pre-approved suppliers. Contracts can be procured either individually or in partnership and always based on local service requirements, whilst being supported by a bespoke package of procurement support from iESE.

Designed to save both the market and councils time, iESE used its procurement experience to provide the framework as a fully compliant route to market, with the ability to reach contract mobilisation stage within six to eight months. And because iESE is a not-for-profit organisation, it is able to deliver this complete service to local authorities free of charge.

In July this year, Tandridge District Council announced that it would use the framework to procure its grounds maintenance contract. Grounds maintenance activity is one of the most visible frontline services for any council and one that is highly regarded by residents.  Tandridge District Council was impressed that the framework enabled them to access pre-approved suppliers that have already been through a robust procurement and market engagement process.

Like many councils, Tandridge District Council is having to make savings.  The procurement of any contract can be a time consuming and costly task, but by using the Waste Management Services Framework, Tandridge District Council is going to make a significant saving on those procurement costs, which could potentially have been up to £30,000.

In addition to the financial benefits of the framework, the timescale that Tandridge District Council is working to will also be met via the call-off process.  This was really important to the council as there could be no disruption to the high level of service to residents.

Throughout the life of the procurement, Tandridge District Council now has access to a dedicated call-off manager to see them through the process, the best in class documentation and procurement templates, and access to critical friend advice and market knowledge.

But iESE also recognises that this need for procurement expertise extends way beyond the delivery of waste and resources services. At the LGA annual conference this year, Minister for Local Government Bob Neill MP spoke at iESE’s fringe event on procurement excellence and gave a much publicised clear message that councils needn’t be risk averse when looking for procurement solutions.  In fact, he challenged them to be bolder in their decisions about their collective annual procurement budget of £62bn.

Through its tried and tested work, iESE has learned the best way to save money is to have the best team and share costs between multiple local authorities. At the bold request of councils with similar ambitions, it has established a new Shared Procurement Service (SPS) which is taking shared services to the next level. Councils already understand how collaboration and tools such as spend analysis can deliver savings and improve processes. Taking a step beyond this the SPS is about taking a business partner approach to procurement, placing it at the heart of council strategic planning to really shape markets and deliver transformational outcomes.

Co-owned by councils and iESE the SPS is a unique partnership based approach to delivering transformational procurement, creating a business that delivers councils’ individual needs while accessing the benefits that partnership working brings.  It allows for a more strategic, joined up approach to finding efficiency savings which stimulates innovation, ensures good quality services from suppliers and embeds best practice throughout organisations involved. Providing access to the best deals and delivering a full transparent programme, it also enables councils to show residents exactly how their council tax is being spent. 

It will also always consider the most sustainable solution to achieve a balance between collaboration and supporting the local economy. It can harness national markets when that scale is required and will also help your council’s localism agenda by ensuring local businesses are aware of business opportunities.

As the next round of budget cuts bite, more councils will inevitably be signing up to deliver real shared services.  The ability to collaborate and influence markets can only increase.  iESE is able to establish shared capacity in pretty much anything and if councils want, this can be established as a subsidiary to iESE to share overheads more widely.

And because iESE is a not-for-profit mutual, councils are able to join the social enterprise for just £1. Its mutual status enables them to work flexibly, setting up special purpose vehicles like the SPS and establishing shared services to help councils transform.  With every surplus penny generated by iESE being re-invested back into the sector, all councils can benefit from its successes.

  • If your council wishes to contact iESE to see how they can help you before budget setting for 2013, you can contact its Business Support Service on 01883 732 957 or email

Alison Templeton executive director of iESE

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