CIH Housing has just wrapped its 2022 event with over 9,000 guests registering to attend over the three days, over 450 speakers and more than 300 sponsors and exhibitors, this was a must-attend event for landlords, social housing providers, and anyone in the housing sector supply chain. As an organisation with deep roots in the sector, AM Bid were in attendance and we wanted to share a few of our thoughts / observations / reflections.
The Procurement Bill is coming
The Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords and is expected to be released in the early part of next year, bringing with it a simplified regime.
Perhaps expectedly, reaction at the conference was mixed. Some praised the ability for contracting authorities to design competitions around the particular needs of the contract, some were hopeful that the move to ‘Most Advantageous Tender’ marked the end of the race to the bottom mentality of awarding contracts to the cheapest bidder, yet others were concerned about the ambiguity in the language around some of the provisions.
There is a long process ahead before the Bill comes into force and it is likely to undergo a number of changes and clarifications, including a raft of secondary legislation to be released and a six-month transitionary period to help buyers and suppliers adjust to the new regulations. It is yet to be seen what the effect will be on the housing sector, though the advice from all corners was to start getting ready now.
Resident engagement is key…
With multiple crises facing the sector right now, namely the housing crisis, cost-of living crisis, and the existential threat of climate change, engagement was a core theme across many talks throughout the conference, including several around protecting the most vulnerable residents, with impassioned talks from both Housing Associations and activist residents.
The message was consistent across all channels: When tenants and residents know that they can genuinely make a difference, influence decisions and are listened to, they feel valued and more willing to be involved. This in turn leads to better working relationships and mutual respect between landlords and residents.
Levelling Up: High on ambition, low on details
This was the view shared by many speakers at the conference, who felt that the recently released White Paper offered a lot of good ideas but was light on the ground when it came to providing actual, concrete solutions. In particular, the recent admission that the target of 300K new homes to be built would not be reached raised some concerns over the government’s ability to back its promises.
One speaker noted that housing was not represented within the document as much as it should have been, given that housing was the number one intervention to improve life expectancy and general wellbeing. Despite that, there was also some praise for the government, for the first time, recognising the need to legislate around lessening the inequalities faced by communities that have historically been left behind.
While there was plenty of success to be celebrated at the conference, there was also some concern expressed around the barriers that were impacting the sector’s ability to effectively meet the challenges in its path.
Among suppliers, the main concern was the shortage of skilled labour – particularly in the retrofit industry – to be able to meet the requirements now and in the future. This is not a new observation, it has long been felt that the education sector was underprepared for the retrofit revolution, and there is still hesitancy on their part to invest without more concrete backing at central government level, but the stalling is only compounding the issue. It was also recognised that the sector needs to do more to make itself a destination employer for young people – many of whom are attracted to careers in the tech space.
Data sharing was also noted as a particular weak point when it came to collaboration in the sector, with one speaker noting that suppliers are being asked to take on a huge risk, without in turn being provided with good quality, quantitative data. How then, are buyers to expect a quality service?
The need for real bidding expertise
In addition to exhibiting, AM Bid Managing Director David Gray and Senior Bid Manager Chantelle Seaborn held a talk at the Insight Theatre on how contractors could make their bids stand out in order to win more business, the only talk across the three days that was aimed directly at Suppliers.
That the talk was so well attended speaks to the appetite for real, high-quality bidding advice and guidance. Especially within the housing sector, the standard has only gone up and public procurement is more competitive than ever. This has resulted in a lot of companies struggling to balance their everyday workload and writing tender responses, lacking both time and knowledge to put together a compelling bid.
Even suppliers who already had an in-house bid function recognised the need to upskill their staff or required a fresh pair of eyes to review their work. AM Bid is well equipped to fulfil both of those needs which lead to enquiries about our consultancy services as well as our online training programme, Ultimate Tender Coach.