Beyond contracting: public service stewardship to maximise public value

Location Executive Education Suite, Postgraduate Teaching Centre, Cardiff University, CF10 3EU
Tickets Book here
Date 5 February 2019

This event focussed on public procurement, the stewardship of public services and outsourcing in Wales. It intended to inform and stimulate civic debate about the future of public procurement in Wales and to contribute some ideas to the development of a national strategy.

The event was informed by an expert panel as well as our report and was aimed at senior and strategic leaders within public bodies and authorities in Wales. It was chaired by Professor Steve Martin, Director of the Wales Centre for Public Policy and comprised a panel discussion with plenty of opportunity for questions from the audience.


  • Benoit Guerin, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government
  • Liz Lucas, Head of Customer and Digital Services and former Head of Procurement at Caerphilly Council
  • Nick Sullivan, Head of Commercial Policy & Delivery at Welsh Government
  • John Tizard, independent commentator and report co-author
  • Chair: Professor Steve Martin, Director of the Wales Centre for Public Policy

Why this event?

Welsh public procurement policy and services have over the past year come under significant critical scrutiny, with the Wales Audit Office highlighting strategic & practical shortcomings and the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry ongoing. The new First Minister has spoken of ethical procurement, of smarter and more creative procurement to support the prevention and prosperity policy agendas, of raising the status of procurement and of harnessing its power to support regionally-based SMEs and the foundational economy. The Welsh Government’s own review has called for an in-depth examination of how public funding can better support public service delivery and build economic growth across all regions. It has committed to working closely with stakeholders to develop a new procurement strategy and this event will seek to inform this process of policy development.

At the Wales Centre for Public Policy we are undertaking a programme of work around procurement. In July 2018 we held an event reflecting on the lessons from Carillion and since then have been working on a series of evidence and policy papers around procurement strategy, sustainability and innovation. The first will be published in the lead up to the event and is on the “stewardship” of public services and outsourcing. It is co-authored by John Tizard and this event will consider its findings and implications.

The paper tries to develop a vision for responsible stewardship of public services and the practical implications for public services outsourcing, at both national and local levels. The authors are not advocating for more or less outsourcing but argue that if public bodies do procure outsourced services, they should do so deliberately, carefully and transparently, informed by evidence and experience. The Institute for Government has very recently reported on the scale and nature of contracting in the UK highlighting similar messages about the importance of open data for accountability.

A shift towards new procurement approaches is a strategic decision: it requires a conscious reordering of the priorities inherent in current procurement arrangements; a very different relationship between public services and third parties; and acceptance of a different type of risk. For this reason, the Wales Centre for Public Policy is seeking to spark the interest of senior public service executives, boards and political leaders, providing evidence and expertise to better support them in taking on the challenge of fully maximising the social, environmental and economic value of procurement across the public sector in order to leverage the best possible outcomes for the people of Wales now and in the future. Impetus to prioritise the sustainability and value (in the broadest sense) of public investment decisions is bolstered in Wales by the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, while the risks of not doing so are exemplified by the case of Carillion and serious concerns about Interserve, Capita and other major outsourcing providers.