Can a services contract be a force for good?

Turning the traditional procurement process on its head.

Stockport Homes and their maintenance partner B4Box have a great working relationship and a common goal of benefitting their communities in everything they do. To maintain this approach, they needed to turn the traditional procurement process on its head.


For years, B4Box have partnered with a range of housing organisations for maintenance and repairs, but their unique relationship depended on the usual cycle of tendering for contracts. B4Box and Stockport Homes wanted to do things differently, working together on a more permanent basis so they could contribute more to their community and the environment.


Procurement law exists for a good reason. But occasionally, the conventional application of that law can get in the way of innovation and long-term collaboration. Stockport Homes and B4Box engaged Anthony Collins Solicitors (ACS) with solving the challenge of how they could continue their partnership.


Stockport Homes manage the housing stock of Stockport Council, while B4Box are a construction firm with a focus on training. By setting up an exclusive collaboration, the two organisations hoped to achieve long-term good for society and the environment. Stockport Homes purchase construction and repair services from B4Box, who train and employ local people in need of work. Essentially, Stockport Homes are buying employment for local people, using construction as the tool.


Young people not in education and long-term unemployed people would benefit from new opportunities. And, since B4Box are committed to recruiting from within five miles of a job site, there is a significant reduction in travel miles (and therefore carbon emissions) compared to a typical works contract, where the contractor can source its workforce from far and wide.


ACS’s Mark Cook and Gayle Monk have worked with the two clients for a number of years. Since Mark literally co-wrote the book on using contracts to achieve community benefits (Achieving community benefits through contracts: law, policy and practice by Richard Macfarlane and Mark Cook), ACS were the perfect partner to help the two organisations transform their working model.


How we solved the procurement challenge

  • We advised on how to achieve these specific social and environmental goals while procuring services – something often thought impossible by those without specialist knowledge.
  • We worked extensively with Stockport Homes and B4Box to design the framework for this contract around five key principles – one of which is environmental sustainability.
  • We reassured the clients that they had enough justification for a direct award because of the unique nature of this contract.


What’s next?

There are lots of benefits to this model of contract – not just the immediate environmental benefits of reduced travel, but also the long-term improvements in society by getting more people into work. There can only be one logical next step: rolling this out further.


We’ll keep working with Stockport Homes and B4Box to help them grow this partnership. And we’ll engage with any new opportunities to employ this model elsewhere around the country.


“Mark doesn’t just tell me what the law is, he tells me what’s the right thing to do.”
Aileen McDonnell, CEO, B4Box

Gayle Monk
0121 214 3630
Mark Cook
0121 214 3636
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