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in conversation with John Simons

20 November 2020

This article is taken from November's public matters newsletter. Click here to view more articles from this issue.


Introduce yourself

My name is John Simons, I was born and educated in Lincolnshire and currently live in rural Leicestershire with my partner, Lindy and two dogs. I enjoy a variety of hobbies including, working my gundogs, fly fishing and I’m currently learning to play the Clarinet.

We have two girls, one of whom now lives in Australia. We also have 3 grandchildren, who keep me very active

Your career to date

I started my career in Local Government in 1986, working for East Lindsey District Council in the Finance Department. When the Authority transferred its housing stock under a Large-Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT), I took up the post of Management Accountant.

A few years later, the housing association merged with De Montfort Housing in Leicester and I decided to move to Leicestershire to take on a new role in Procurement. Following another merger and the transfer of the head office to Birmingham, I decided to take a position with Leicester City Council, leading major capital project procurement.

In 2015, I took on my role with Scape Group.

You currently work for Scape, tell us a bit about them

Scape is one of the UK’s leading authorities on public procurement, and we help the public sector accelerate their built environment projects and deliver them to the highest possible standard.

We work with the brightest talent that industry has to offer – that’s where my role comes in – to find the very best teams to deliver on our promises and to deliver the outcomes our clients value. We also operate with robust governance and performance management processes to ensure that every project is delivered well and benefits the community in any way it can.

That means training, apprenticeships, SME involvement and community engagement initiatives.

What does a normal day look like

Like many people, I don’t really have a “normal day”. I manage a small team who undertake procurement not only for Scape, but also Arc Property Services, which is a joint venture between Nottingham County Council and Scape.

Working across the business, the team are kept very busy procuring all manner of works and services for the construction sector. Obviously, frameworks are what we are known for and we’re always looking to refresh our offer and working towards improving our services.

I’m involved with a number of initiatives outside of Scape, namely; The Construction Steering Group, which is led by the Local Government Association, the National Association of Construction Frameworks, which is a group of public sector organisations who specialise in frameworks. We look to share knowledge and best practice and to ensure value for the public sector.

Finally, I’m also a Board member of the Procurement Lawyers Association, which is a platform to represent, promote and strengthen procurement law expertise.

What in your view are the biggest challenges faced by your sector

Well, apart from having to deal with lawyers! 😊 The biggest challenges our sector face is ensuring that across the UK, we provide infrastructure that helps our economy to bounce back. Construction has thankfully kept delivering vital work during the pandemic and we need to ensure that this continues to create spaces and places that attract inward investment and prompt people to start businesses.

That’s the essence of what we do. It’s about stimulating the local economy, that means we need to ensure that we have the right materials, delivery partners and funding available to keep Britain building.

What achievement are you most proud of

I made a conscious decision to enter the public sector, because I believe in the services it offers. I’m proud of being able to advise on and embed best practice procurement and to be in a position of influence.

What advice would you give to those people who are coming through the procurement ranks today

Gain as much knowledge and experience as you can and don’t get “Pigeonholed” too early. But most of all, be passionate about what you do. People really do notice.


John Simons Is the head of procurement at Scape Group Limited. Scape is a public-sector partnership that helps to improve the buildings that we use, the roads we travel on and the places we live. Learn more about them by visiting: https://www.scape.co.uk/

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