An £88m investment in over 300 new homes, a theatre, chef’s school, nursery, street gym and community space has now been agreed and we will use this opportunity to re-engineer the local economy and support Lambeth firms. Any big builders who tender for the contract will have to demonstrate social value in their supply chain or they won’t get the contract, and this should give more power to small local firms who employ locally, pay the London living wage, take on an apprentice or ex-offender.
The redevelopment of Somerleyton Road will create homes for 300 families in the heart of Brixton. Those families will live on a road with a new children’s nursery, a new theatre, community spaces, a street gym, green space for growing food and much else. I’ve written about it in more detail here and here.
The good news is that Somerleyton is one step closer after Lambeth Council Cabinet voted unanimously to approve the plans on Monday 12th July – you can read the minutes here.
As a result, the next phase of the project can now get underway. Detailed work on the design and layout will now be completed and a planning application is expected by the end of August. Between now and then we will be designing the procurement framework. In plain English that means awarding the contracts to the firm who will lay the bricks, plaster the walls and landscape the gardens.
While the council will naturally seek financial value from the contracts, the work won’t simply be awarded to the lowest bidder.
Instead we will look to maximise social value. In practice bids which include firm commitments for use of local apprentices, employment of Lambeth residents and payment of the London Living wage will ‘score more points’ than bids which don’t. It will also mean that bids where work is subcontracted to suppliers who provide social value – firms like Bounceback who work with ex-offenders to get them back into work and on the straight and narrow – will be more likely to get the contract.
Too often smaller local firms are muscled out by the giants, or at best given “crumbs from the table” in a market that seems weighted against them. One of the things this will do is create a more level playing field so local firms that employ local people are given a fair chance, but also hopefully see more small firms decide to be more socially minded so they are ‘worth more’ at the supply chain table.
And I want employment opportunities to go to local people. Somerleyton is in an area that ranks in the top 10% most deprived in the country. Unemployment is high and income is lower than the borough average. So we will be looking for firms that can offer quality apprenticeships for younger people to give them the skills they need to open up a good quality career with a decent wage, as well as wages which are at the London Living wage.
Importantly, the procurement process opens up an opportunity to help marginalised groups into work. For many people, for a variety of factors, work is a distant dream. But unemployment is toxic and is a primary cause of other issues such homelessness, crime, depression. That’s why we will be looking at what we can do to help some of the ‘harder to reach’ groups. That might be helping ex-offenders to go straight or supporting employment for people with mental health issues or learning difficulties.
In the coming months our procurement strategy will start to take shape. The bottom line will be about more than pounds and pence but about the value we can extract for the whole community. And who knows, maybe some of the local apprentices building Somerleyton Road might actually end up living there once it’s done!