Reading Borough Council is spending a massive £34 million on contracts that will benefit people within the community.

The council contracts a range of businesses to conduct some of the services it provides.

It has been revealed that the council spends £34.56m on six contracts which have significant ‘social value’.

In practice, this means that the companies awarded the contracts have initiatives which benefit people in Reading.

The majority of these contracted holders are companies contracted to undertake digital transformation works at the council and the town as a whole.

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Businesses with contracts for this work are Agilisys, which holds a £965,000 contract, Virgin Media, with a £320,000 contract, and North PB Ltd which holds a £87,000 contract.

In return, these companies are providing ‘social value’ to the community.
Agilisys has funded 10 places per year for the ‘Fast Futures’, which is a 12 week skills development programme for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Meanwhile, North PB has committed to hiring people from the Reading area.
Virgin Media has offered to support a free broadband service for five
years from installation for up to six community properties, as well as its work to support Reading charities.

Of the six contractors which provide ‘social value’, the most expensive is the £16.594m lesuire contract to Greenwich Leisure, which has committed providing apprenticeships, traineeships and training courses to people in Reading throughout its 25 year contract.

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Reed Specialist Recruitment Ltd, which has a £10m contract to manage temporary agency staff, has helped by creating eight apprenticeships or work experience opportunities for care leavers and children in care a year, and provide mock interviews and career workshops for young people.

Finally, Kiely Brothers, which has a £6.6m contract to do road and pavement resurfacing is doing its bit by using suppliers in the Reading postcode for non strategic materials (e.g. coated surfaces), temporary buildings
and site based welfare.

Also, a Kickstart scheme funded roles in the contract will be reserved for Reading residents.

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The concept of outside companies providing ‘social value’ to Reading in enacting contracts was established in the council’s Social Value Policy in December 2020.

From then on, companies which are seeking Reading Borough Council contracts in excess of £100,000 are encouraged to include a social value plan within a contract bid.

Companies and charities bidding for contracts worth less than £100,000 are encouraged to lay out social value plans where possible as well.

Reading Borough Council is seeking to increase the number of contracts with the social value element by 11 over the next year, taking the total to 17 contracts representing £52.06m worth of contracts.

Councillor Ruth McEwan, lead member for  corporate and consumer services, (Labour, Church) said: “While Reading is a hugely successful town, we also know that significant groups of people do not benefit from its success.

“A golden thread though all of the council’s work is to ensure that Reading realises its potential and that means doing everything possible to ensure that everyone who lives and works here can share the benefits of its success.

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“There are very many ways the council is looking to close that gap and trying to ensure that, where possible, there are elements of social value in our external contracts is just one way.

“Progress has been made since the council signed its Social Value Policy just over a year ago with nearly 14 per cent of the council’s total external contract spend now including explicit social value, but work is ongoing to increase that total in future years.”

An annual update report on the Social Value Policy will be given at a meeting of the council’s policy committee on Monday, January 17.