Let’s put community engagement at the heart of procurement

Colin MacLennan

After being awarded the GO Best Service Award (contractors working with the Scottish public sector) at the recent GO Excellence in Public Procurement Awards for Scotland, Colin MacLennan, business development director at Morrison Construction, discusses the importance of community when it comes to procurement.

Under the Procurement Reform Act 2014, all procurement projects should ‘intend to improve the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of the authority’s area in a way additional to the main purpose of the contract’.

When East Ayrshire Council launched its Design and Build tender for the construction of the new Whatriggs Primary School, it was the first time the local authority had focused a significant element of the tender evaluation on such commitments. Prior to this, local engagement was always a bonus – something desirable but not required.

For us, this wasn’t a new approach. Guided by our Morrison Construction Corporate Responsibility Policy, we set the goal of exceeding the minimum contracted targets. We established a model of Best Practice in delivering social and economic benefits, which would impact beyond construction.

The Whatriggs Primary School project was a major investment in the local area, creating a new state-of-the-art facility bringing two primary schools together. Plans included the creation of a community library, an early childhood centre for 110 children under the age of five and enhanced sporting facilities.

The project itself was at the heart of the community, and the perfect backdrop to focusing on this approach for the procurement process. This was key to our proposal.

We secured the tender based on the strength of our commitments to the local community and went on to deliver an average of 340% of required targets, with a further 156 engagements proposed beyond what the Council had requested.

What was important to everyone at Morrison Construction, was to deliver something that the whole community could be involved in, and when complete, something in which they could be proud of.

Before work began, our community skills manager, Jim Johnstone, visited various local groups from employment agency partners and schools, right through to the local bowling club.

Some key achievements were:

  • Employing eight new, local, full-time staff on the project
  • Improving drainage on the football pitch for local team, and helped build paths for both local churches, to give the parishioners easier access
  • Sponsoring the local bowling club competition
  • Supplying an iPad to the each of the schools to raffle to help raise funds
  • Establishing a site collection point supporting food banks at CVO East Ayrshire and St Matthew’s Church
  • Donating a permanent notice board to keep residents informed on community issues

And while of course this sort of engagement comes into play in public procurement with minimum requirements set, we need to aim for more than the bottom line. It’s important to commit to overachieving with local schools, businesses and groups, becoming embedded into the local area.

The benefit to this?

This was the first project we delivered for East Ayrshire Council – bringing together two primaries and an Early Years Nursery at a value of £10.8m. Following Whatriggs, East Ayrshire Council appointed Morrison Construction as preferred contractor for the £53m Knockroon Learning Enterprise Campus – integrating two secondary schools, two primary schools, an Assisted Special Needs Facility and an Early Years Nursery.

Again, community engagement was the key to our approach within the procurement process for the Knockroon project. We have already constructed a £20k Sensory Room at Crosshouse Primary, incorporated an Apprentice Challenge across Ayrshire, and mentored Kilmarnock Academy students at the request of the Educational Department ahead of construction.

On top of this, we were given external recognition for the Whatriggs project by winning a GO Award earlier this year – giving validation to our approach, allowing us to celebrate the success of the project and most importantly, putting community at the heart of procurement.

The feedback from the local community and East Ayrshire Council has been phenomenal and the team are looking forward to getting started on another project that can improve the lives of the locals.

When it comes to community engagement – in construction or any other industry – it is essential to go above and beyond.