Simon Tse, CEO of Crown Commercial Service, delivered the keynote address at Public Sector Show 2021

Published 6 July 2021

Last updated 14 July 2021

Welcome to the Public Sector Show 2021. I’m Simon Tse, CEO of Crown Commercial Service. I join you today virtually, as we’re all now well accustomed to. I know this will be a fantastic event. 

It’s especially great to be able to speak to so many of our customers, including leaders in public procurement from every corner of the United Kingdom and every part of the public and third sectors. 

CCS works with 18,000 public and third sector organisations, and when you break down that number it gives you an idea of the diversity of places that we reach, and the variety of demands that can be placed upon us and the supply chain.

  • We work with 10,000 education bodies including schools, colleges and universities
  • 2,000 organisations in the health sector
  • More than 550 housing associations
  • Around 1,000 local authorities and other local government bodies
  • 800 not for profit organisations
  • And more than 500 organisations covering Police, fire and rescue, and the prison and probation services

It’s truly an honour to be able to speak to you all, to take stock of a momentous 12 months, and to look ahead to an equally busy and exciting period.

Please do visit our virtual exhibition stand and speak to our procurement experts about your requirements. Our sector representatives are also on hand to meet you.

The world has changed, and we have all changed with it. What has not changed is CCS’s focus on supporting our customers – our citizens, communities, and businesses, as we emerge from the pandemic to build back better. 

Whilst the pandemic has separated us physically, there has never been so much collaboration across the whole public sector and our supply chains.

We have faced a mammoth challenge during the pandemic, and we have met that challenge. 

From the earliest days back in March last year, CCS has been part of a coordinated government response. Our commercial expertise has been instrumental in enabling rapid access to capable suppliers and coordinating supply chains – interpreting requirements and matching them to suppliers’ offerings, and in establishing compliant routes to market.

When I look back at some of the projects CCS and our customers have been involved in, it brings home more than ever what can be achieved when we collaborate effectively.

We have delivered more than £2bn of assisted procurements for our customers, often further alleviating the burden on them by stepping in to help with operational support. 

At the outset of the pandemic, we helped to repatriate 40,000 British nationals on 107 flight charters from 52 countries.

Around 160 million meals were delivered to more than 900,000 children through our Free School Meals voucher scheme, and 1.3 million disadvantaged children received devices to assist with their home schooling.

At a crucial moment in the UK’s response, 14,000 staff were deployed to the vaccination programme, and 1,000 to laboratories – thanks to CCS agreements.

And 500 mobile testing units have been designed and delivered to provide Covid-19 symptomatic tests estimated to have saved 6,000 lives. 

At CCS, we set great store in evaluation and the feedback we get from our customers, so I’m delighted to say that, throughout it all, we have maintained a healthy customer satisfaction score of plus 48, and an average satisfaction rating in excess of 8 out of 10. 

This is a challenge that has taken the whole public sector working in partnership with the private sector to respond, and I know you will all have stories to share of how your colleagues and your organisations have played your part. 

As the vaccine rollout continues and the country opens up, our work to support the recovery continues.

The focus now is on building back better, making sure that the UK emerges from the pandemic stronger, fairer, and greener.

We will continue to respond to what our customers need – using data, insights and your feedback to understand how we transition from helping you to deal with the immediate impact of Covid-19 to adapting to the new world in which we’re operating.

We’re building on our category strategies to develop innovative solutions that meet the needs of our customers, focusing on new customer and sector channels, digital products and go-to market strategies to enable future business growth.

  • Innovating in the delivery of public services, accelerating the digital transformation of the public sector to create end-to-end solutions that work for citizens – building back better
  • Putting sustainability considerations at the beginning of our planning, not treating the environment as an afterthought – building back greener
  • And creating new opportunities for small businesses, social enterprises, and charities to work with the public sector and rebuild our economy, building back fairer

We will work to make sure that government policy around these issues is written into our commercial agreements – so that it is one less thing for customers to worry about. 

We’re already starting to see the first generation of new agreements come through our pipeline with the Social Value PPN baked into them, and I will talk in a bit more detail later about the ways we’re adapting our solutions to the many opportunities for generating social value that exist.

Now I just wanted to pull out one key initiative we are working on.

The Government has committed to reducing our carbon consumption to net zero by 2050, a key part of the Treasury’s Plan For Growth, published with the Budget in March. 

Since then the Government has announced it will set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law – to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.

Hitting this target will mean the total decarbonisation of electricity, transport, buildings, industry, and the public sector, with interim targets and legislation to help us get there.

We’re working with customers right now to understand your biggest carbon net zero challenges and to gauge where you are on your decarbonisation journey. 

We’ve identified dozens of our agreements that can be used to help with that journey already – from the obvious areas like Fleet and Energy to technology hardware and even, in future, food.

And we’re helping suppliers to build Carbon Reduction Plans into their bids from September, in line with the latest Cabinet Office procurement policy note.

Our vision for Carbon Net Zero is that we will achieve an integrated offer with easy buying solutions. We will only do that by continuing the conversation with customers and suppliers, and I urge you to get involved. 

You will have the chance to hear from Noreen Winhall, our Buildings Director who is speaking later this morning about carbon net zero, on a panel with the Energy Savings Trust, BEIS, and Bath and North East Somerset Council. In case you miss it you can watch a recording via the event website.

As you have heard me say many times our priority is to put our customers at the heart of what we do.

We want to bring power to our customers’ procurements by offering the best deals along with our commercial expertise to help achieve greater value for money, and commercial benefits.

Last year customers who used our agreements achieved commercial benefits in the region of £2 billion – money that can be reinvested into delivering front line services for citizens.

I was also pleased to receive the NAO’s latest operational delivery report in March. 

The NAO praised CCS’s progress since 2015 and particularly the strides we’ve taken in ramping up the value of commercial benefits we deliver for our customers, and our customer satisfaction scores.

We are continuing our journey to transform the organisation into a customer focused business, making it simple and easy for customers to access our products and services. 

In the coming year and beyond we will identify new categories, new commercial products, enter new markets and establish collaborative alliances with external partners. 

In parallel, we will continuously improve our capabilities through the development of our people and ways of working.

Many of you will have heard me say that CCS is always working to increase the spend through our agreements.

For 2020/21 we expect to have grown spend to around £22 billion. The more spend that comes through our agreements, the more money we can generate to re-invest in raising the bar, investing in our own capability and sharing that knowledge and expertise with you, our customers.

This year we achieved around £2bn of commercial benefits, under exceptional circumstances. For 2021/22 we have set ourselves a still-ambitious target of achieving £1.5bn of spend-related commercial benefits, and almost £2bn for 22/23.

We will continue our work to negotiate the best deals, benchmarking our prices and working closely with customers to deliver tailored solutions that meet your needs.

We work collaboratively with Cabinet Office’s central commercial teams to support the delivery of the Government’s commercial and procurement policy objectives, including on the new National Procurement Policy Statement.

As an active member of the National Social Value Taskforce, we’re also working with the public and private sectors to make it easier for public bodies to measure the value they are helping to deliver through their procurements.

As I’ve said, CCS currently has 18,000 customers across the length and breadth of the UK, so the opportunity for social value to be generated through our procurement solutions is clear. 

Some examples of our work in this area are:

  • We can ask suppliers bidding to join our agreements to demonstrate how they work to ensure fair, inclusive and ethical employment practices
  • Suppliers on our furniture agreement are asked to support the Greening Government Commitment to ensure that all packaging of products is reusable or readily recyclable
  • And our Fleet category are backing Highways England’s Driving for Better Business campaign to boost driver safety standards for public sector suppliers, requiring suppliers on our agreements to sign up to the scheme

The examples I’ve given show a little of how we’re delivering the Government’s policy agenda in partnership with our customers and suppliers.

You can read much more about the latest developments on the Government’s public procurement policy, and what this means for your contracts, on the Crown Commercial Service website.

That’s it from me. I’d just like to take this opportunity to say thank you once again for listening, and to urge you all to please visit the Crown Commercial Service virtual exhibition stand and speak to our team about how we can help bring power to your procurement.

Now more than ever, procurement has a vital role to play in supporting and strengthening our country and our public sector.

As an organisation, Crown Commercial Service is committed to ensuring that the whole public sector can play its part as we build back better, fairer and greener. Thank you.