Outsourcing Playbook to future-proof public contracts


The government has published its Outsourcing Playbook, designed to improve how it works with the construction industry and deliver better public spaces

The Outsourcing Playbook was launched by Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Dowden on 20 February.

The Outsourcing Playbook guidance will ensure that the government gets more projects right from the start, engages with a diverse and healthy marketplace of companies, including small businesses and charities, and is ready if things go wrong.

This follows reforms announced in recent months by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington, to ensure that government procurement is fit for the future, including putting social values at the heart of public service delivery.

New measures include changes to how government allocates risk between itself and its suppliers, to ensure contracts are set-up for success and the public are provided with the best possible service.

The government is also taking steps to improve the design of outsourcing projects from their inception. New complex contracts will be piloted with the private sector before rolling out fully, enabling the government to learn from experience and deliver better public services.

Oliver Dowden said: “Outsourcing can deliver significant benefits, including value for money and more innovative public services. Our new measures will improve how the government works with industry and provide better public services for people across the country.

“I can today provide reassurance that the Playbook makes explicit that, when designing contracts, departments must seek to mitigate, reduce and then allocate risks to the party best able to manage it.

“A more considered approach to risk allocation will make us a smarter, more attractive client to do business with.”

Jon Lewis, the CEO of Capita, one of the suppliers which government worked with to develop the new measures, added: “Capita is working closely with government to develop these reforms. This is a sea-change, both recognising the vital contribution the private sector makes in delivering first-rate public services, and then finding ways to do this even better.

“These new ways of working will place a stronger focus on establishing partnerships based on mutual trust and a joint focus on positive outcomes. This is fundamental to the successful procurement and delivery of public-sector contracts.”

Further measures in the Outsourcing Playbook include suppliers drawing up plans in the unlikely event of business failure, and requiring them to publish key performance data – all announced by Minister David Lidington in recent months.

Director of External Affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Marie-Claude Hemming said: “Following the collapse of Carillion last year, it is welcome that the Government has listened and is implementing important changes that will optimise the procurement of public projects by the private sector in future.

“In particular, we welcome the recognition that the procurement process is best undertaken by close co-operation between government and industry at the earliest possible stage.

“Our members require forward visibility of projects to deliver schemes on time and on budget, so the expectation that all government departments will publish their commercial pipelines in future will be particularly welcome.

“At the same time, we call on government to move away from evaluating projects solely on price, and towards a new model that measures the social benefits of different types of infrastructure schemes to support business cases for future investment.”


  1. As the Chief Executive of the Public Service Transformation Academy, I am pleased to see this coherent and mature approach to outsourcing decisions and the process of doing it right. It’s particularly gratifying that the value of the Cabinet Office Commissioning Academy, which we run and which has been developing since 2011, is recognised (https://www.publicservicetransformation.org/commissioning-academy/). I do hope that the government will now also demonstrate commitment to the wider context in which smart procurement fits: commissioning, transformation, social value, and a real focus on citizen outcomes. The response to Carillion can’t be simply ‘we must outsource better’ – real investment in the wider commissioning and transformation agenda is needed.


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