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Spring Statement 2019

Red briefcase

The Chancellor has today delivered his Spring Statement. Against the background of continued uncertainty around the UK’s departure from the EU, what will probably be seen as the main message of the Statement is that the Chancellor’s so-called ‘war chest’ of around £26.6bn is earmarked for preparations for a ‘no-deal Brexit.’

If the possibility of a ‘no deal’ exit is removed with the EU’s agreement, it will free up a significant amount of money to be spent in areas such as healthcare and education. However, as our last update noted, ‘no deal’ remains very much a possibility, in spite of this week’s parliamentary vote.

If a Brexit deal is agreed, the Chancellor has committed to a full, three-year spending review before Parliament’s summer recess, ahead of the next budget.

We look at a few other key announcements from the Statement below.

Housing & construction

The Government has made up to £3bn available to housing associations in England, through the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme, to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes.

In addition, £717m is earmarked for constructing 37,000 homes in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire.

The Chancellor also said that a National Infrastructure Strategy will be published along with the Autumn Budget.

For more on the implications of the Statement for the construction industry, see the latest Construction Online update.

Local areas

Alongside the above-mentioned areas for housing development, the Statement announces up to £260m for the Borderlands region, which comprises which comprises Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle City. There will also be £60m of investment in ten cities and local areas across England, from the ‘Transforming Cities Fund.’

Technology & innovation

While the major news in terms of technology may be around the Government’s planned reviews of digital advertising and the dominance of ‘tech giants’, there were announcements in other areas too, with over £200m earmarked for science and innovation projects. Major funding has been granted for state-of-the-art laser technology projects in Oxfordshire, genomics research and industry in Cambridge, and £79m for a supercomputer to be developed in Edinburgh.

Skills & jobs

The last Budget included updates to apprenticeship reforms. These mean that, from 1st April, employers will see the co-investment rate they pay reduced from 10% to 5%, while levy-paying employers are “able to share more levy funds across their supply chains”, with the maximum amount rising from 10% to 25%.

The Chancellor also reiterated that the previously-announced £37bn National Productivity Investment Fund, covering areas such as roads, the rail network and full-fibre networks, will help boost productivity.

Sustainability & environment

Sustainability and efficiency are one of the major areas of focus in the Statement, with the Chancellor pledging to increase the amount of ‘green gas’ in the National Grid. Additionally, from 2025, all new homes will be ‘future-proofed’ with low carbon heating, as opposed to fossil fuel-based heating systems.

The Statement also announced a ‘call for evidence’ specifically focusing on the benefits of energy efficiency and carbon reduction for SMEs. The results of this will lead to SME-specific investment commitments.

New Brexit Guidance for Procurement

Business people figurines shaking hands on map of Europe

The Government has released new guidance specifically aimed at those working in public procurement as to what the effect of the various possible Brexit outcomes will be for the industry.

The Procurement Policy Note (PPN), ‘Preparing the UK for Leaving the EU’, sets out guidance that will be applicable as soon as the UK leaves the EU, scheduled for 29th March. The guidance aims to cover all potential outcomes, whether or not the UK has negotiated a withdrawal deal with the EU. The PPN clarifies areas including how procurement notification requirements in the different constituent countries of the UK will be affected, the currently assumed length and scope of an ‘implementation period’, and – most crucially – the changes that suppliers will have to make if there is a ‘no-deal’ exit.

The PPN and explanatory notes can be accessed here.

BiP Solutions is specifically named in the explanatory ‘frequently asked questions’ supplement to the PPN, as one of the first e-senders to announce plans to integrate with the new, UK-specific tenders notification service that may supersede the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) in the case of ‘no deal.’ This represents a potential major change for UK suppliers and how they do business. To find out more, read our recently updated guidance document, ‘Procurement After Brexit: Deal or No Deal‘, which complements the Government’s PPN.

For the latest updates on what Brexit means for procurement, visit BiP Solutions’ dedicated Brexit page.

Digital Strategies in Government Procurement: Procurex Wales

CarenFullertonIn anticipation of her presentation at Procurex Wales Live on 6 October at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, entitled Digital Strategy for Welsh Government, Caren Fullerton, Chief Digital Officer at the Welsh Government, spoke to BiP Solutions journalist Domhnall Macinnes about the importance of having a good digital strategy in central government procurement.

Caren Fullerton worked for the Welsh Government as an analyst for 15 years before moving on to such roles as Head of ICT for the Welsh Government’s agriculture department and Head of Corporate Services at the International Property Office, among others.

She said: “In my current role I’m responsible for providing leadership on the Welsh Government’s own digital services and digital delivery and also for some aspects of data. My team are also looking at opportunities to do things differently with respect to ICT services and unified communications.”

In April 2015, the Welsh Government published Digital First, a strategy outlining the Government’s approach to driving digital change in the public sector. Digital First aims to stimulate the provision of a variety of good-quality online services for citizens and businesses in Wales.

Mrs Fullerton explained: “A key principle underpinning Digital First is the ability to use digital to generate efficiencies and deliver value for money. Digital First is not overly prescriptive and instead provides a framework to drive improvements; we are already beginning to see some really tangible deliveries as a result of the strategy. We have also recently published an open data plan for Welsh Government, the principles of which are repeatable across the public sector. We already publish a vast amount of open data and the plan will stretch us even further. A USP for Welsh Government is that our data is bilingual and therefore valuable to a variety of people all over Wales.”

Mrs Fullerton also noted that the introduction of the National Procurement Service has had a positive impact on how suppliers and government do business all over the UK.

She continued: “I think it’s important to remember that Wales has a distinct policy agenda when it comes to digital development and digital approaches. Nevertheless, our citizens and businesses receive many of their services from Whitehall departments so I think it’s important that suppliers of services in Wales understand both the differences and our common ground in order to deliver the best quality products for us. This also helps their credibility when they look at developing themselves as suppliers to the rest of the UK.”

Mrs Fullerton touched on the vital importance of having a well thought-out digital strategy in central government procurement, benefiting both government and the supply chain.

She commented: “You want your suppliers to have done their homework up front when they are bidding for work so that the procurement process goes quickly and smoothly for them and for you. Also, these days it’s more likely that our procurements involve limited competition with a group of suppliers who themselves have already been through a framework contract procurement process.”

Mrs Fullerton briefly explored what the Welsh Government looks for in a supplier.

She said: “I’ve met suppliers that have come with really great products they’re potentially interested in trying to sell to Wales, but because they haven’t done their research on a lot of the things that matter to the public sector in Wales and the Welsh Government, they’re not really able to compete for that work. Do your research first!”

Rounding off the session, Mrs Fullerton provided a snippet from her upcoming talk at Procurex Wales and discussed the value of Meet the Buyer events.

Discussing the importance of digital change, she said: “I think the talk is mostly going to be around how digital change is about completely transforming the way in which your business operates. It is about rethinking how you deliver your service, sometimes through a very different business model. Examples from the private sector include Uber and Airbnb, where people have completely rethought how the transaction between the buyer and seller takes place and then built an IT system and new processes to deliver that. This radical rethinking also applies to how we need to transform the public sector.”

She concluded: “I think for buyers, events like Procurex are an opportunity to step back a bit and think about what it is you’re doing, while learning from the past experiences of others.”

Procurex Wales will be a hub for opportunity when private sector delegates and key public sector representatives descend onto the floor of the Motorpoint Arena for a day of networking. To gather fantastic tips about digital change from Mrs Fullerton’s speech and to seize the opportunity to gain much more, register for Procurex Wales Live 2016 today.