Pioneering Islington Council locks fairness agenda into affordable workspace procurement framework

Islington Council is ensuring affordable workspace providers create millions of pounds’ worth of social value for the borough’s residents, by being the first in the country to write such obligations into affordable workspace procurement contracts.

As part of its inclusive economy approach, the council last week agreed a new procurement framework for its affordable workspace strategy.  This will require providers to deliver added value that benefits the local economy and local residents looking for space in Islington to start or develop their business.  It will also help get local people into good jobs, by working in partnership with workspace providers.

The council has drawn up a social value framework that calculates and assigns financial values to a range of commitments and activities that prospective affordable workspace providers are asked to fulfil if they win the contract.

This puts into practice our commitment to making Islington a fairer place. Some of the five broad social value indicators that feature in the bid process assessment include the extent to which providers plan to support unemployed women back into work – via career mentoring, for example. They are also asked to estimate how many long-term unemployed residents they will help into work, and how many disabled, young ex-offenders, and black or minority ethnic staff they expect to have employed in the spaces they run.

Other commitments cover training opportunities, apprenticeships, outreach work in local schools and colleges, engaging voluntary or community sector organisations in the supply chain, and promoting sustainable procurement practices such as reducing food waste, using locally-produced goods, and keeping resources in circulation longer.

This innovative approach will help support our commitment to give young people 100 hours’ experience of the world of work by the age of 16 – another UK first.

By writing these requirements into the procurement assessments and assigning them financial values, we can exert the maximum positive influence on the providers of affordable workspaces so they become true beacons that reflect our commitment to build a fairer Islington. This is the first time any local authority has gone to such lengths to extract the most social value possible from its affordable workspaces. It also opens the door to smaller operators and voluntary, charity and community organisations who would otherwise not get a look-in.  Our objective is to stimulate innovation in social value practice, and deliver more benefit for some of the most disadvantaged people in our communities.

In addition to this social value assessment for providers, the framework will be tailored to each of the nine affordable workspaces the council has secured.

This means each workspace will have its own bespoke agreement that best fits its setting – increasing the odds of finding the most suitable provider based on their expertise. One space, for example, will be targeted at garment and textile production so the council would tailor the framework to favour providers who know how to run a building for this type of industry.

In addition, the council also intends to increase the minimum affordable workspace requirement for new office developments from five per cent to 10 per cent.

Karen Sullivan, Islington Council’s director of planning and development, said: “We are on the lookout for new partners to help manage our pioneering affordable workspace programme – to work with us for a fairer Islington.

“The new procurement framework for affordable workspace providers is ambitious – it means that just being a good landlord is simply not enough anymore.

“By managing the process much more closely, we can ensure that we get the maximum social value from all of our affordable workspaces across the borough, now and in the future. It also gives us the ability to tailor the requirements for each space to fit the type of industry it will work best for. This is a bold but worthwhile move that puts fairness for our residents first.

“We are proud to send a strong message to developers and providers and encourage others to follow our lead. We are already building our list of providers and hope to confirm our first partner in the summer.

“If your organisation can deliver these benefits – and has a specialist knowledge of the creative design and tech sectors – we would love to hear from you.”

Find out more information on the new procurement framework and how to apply.

Find out more about our affordable workspace programme.

Join our affordable workspace providers’ list by emailing us at


Notes to editor

Islington Council has nine affordable workspaces coming on-stream in the next two years, nearly 6,000 sq m.  The council will continue to negotiate further spaces through its planning process.

These spaces have been made available to the council, via the planning approval process, at peppercorn rent, which will be passed directly onto the affordable workspace providers.

The providers will be able to charge up to 80 per cent of market rent for the space, but will be selected for their suitability for a site based largely on an assessment of their performance in the social value framework.

For every affordable workspace, each social value indicator has been given a proxy financial value, independently calculated, that together is worth at least 150 per cent of the full market rent for that space. Calculations are clearly laid out for providers and will be tracked to ensure that the social value is realised.

The new affordable workspace strategy will run from April 2019 to the end of March 2023.

Islington Council is developing its Local Plan for 2020-35 which includes a proposal to increase the affordable workspace requirement in all new office developments from five per cent of floor space to 10 per cent.

Contact information

If you are a member of the public with a general question about the council please view the contact information on our website or call 020 7527 2000.