Published: Wednesday, 13 September 2023

When thinking about how the Council is helping to make the economy work for Oxford people, businesses, and communities, one phrase that often pops up at the centre of it all is ‘social value’.

But what does this actually mean?

What is social value?

Social value is about how Oxford City Council is able to use our influence to help local communities, and provide social and economic opportunities to those most in need.

This can take many forms, including:

  • Employing local people
  • Offering apprenticeships
  • Paying a living wage
  • Providing work experience opportunities
  • Working with community groups
  • Supporting the environment

How is the Council supporting social value?

Over the years the Council has supported social value directly through initiatives such as creating and encouraging businesses to adopt the Oxford Living Wage, offering apprenticeships to local people and working with local community groups.

Each of these actions all help to ensure that we can directly support local people, and those in need. However, this is not the only way that we support social value within our city.

Procurement and social value

Each year we spend about £150m on goods, services and construction projects, and approximately 44% of our spend is with local businesses. As a public body, there is a strict process – known as procurement – that we must follow before taxpayers’ money can be spent.

When looking to start any large project, the Council has to go through a procurement process to find a supplier (business) who we can work with or who will carry out the work on our behalf. This applies to any business applying to work with us, including our wholly owned companies such as ODS and OX Place.

When deciding to work with a business, we consider many different factors before appointing a contract, including quality of services, value for money, and, of course, social value.

In the last 2 years we have introduced a new procurement approach that formally included ‘social value’ as one of the key factors that businesses and suppliers have to demonstrate when applying to the Council. This means that businesses must consider how they will show social value firstly as a 5% weighting in the evaluation of a bid and now as a 10% of the 100% available in the evaluation of a bid.

Simply put, this now means that businesses who hire apprentices from the local area, give to local charity or work to tackle the climate emergency, may receive a higher score and, therefore, may be more likely to be chosen as Council suppliers.

Businesses that are based in Oxfordshire, who hire local Oxford people and purchase their goods and services locally are also considered.

By adopting this approach, not only are we able to invest financially into local businesses, but we are able to support and encourage businesses to give back to the community, and help local people.

Since adopting this approach, we have seen a range of commitments from suppliers across the city who are working to support social value, including:

  • Support of Oxford Living Wage
  • Student Placements, including five paid work placements for students at Blackbird Leys College
  • Engaging local sixth form business studies pupils
  • Donating of equipment to specialist deaf schools
  • Donating of excess food to the local communities
  • Health and Safety training to help boost employment
  • Sports equipment donation and sponsorship
  • Support of woodland trust and tree planting

Social value is one way that we are trying to create an Oxford that works for everyone, both in our role as an employer, and as a leader within the city.

How are we helping our suppliers to respond to the opportunity?

We have been working with businesses to help ensure that they understand social value and how to operate our approach to procurement.

This has included:

  • Working with OSEP - a Community Interest Company supporting social enterprise and purposeful business - to hold ‘Meet the Buyer’ and ‘Get Social Procurement Ready’ events. The events are designed to help business understand how to respond to council contract opportunities. If you’re interested in hearing about future events, contact
  • We are working with partners in the Social Value Working Group of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership to promote the benefits of social value and develop and share best practice across the county.
  • We will begin quarterly “How to tender” workshops in September to support local and Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) suppliers and provide an overview of the tendering process.  For more information contact

There will be lots of other opportunities coming up soon, be keep an eye out for more information on how we are supporting local businesses to support social value in Oxford. 

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