Plymouth Alliance

Plymouth City Council have created an alliance to improve the lives of people with complex needs by supporting the whole person to meet their aspirations. It is their first alliance contract and involves eight member organisations. LH Alliances has worked alongside them throughout the journey from initial idea to launch.

Why alliance contracting was chosen

Plymouth City Council were keen to have a more collaborative way of commissioning. They had already set up a series of groups of providers who were meeting regularly to look at whole system improvements on different topics. One group was focused on those with complex needs be they related to homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, mental health issues or offending. The group was made up of organisations who had a long history of working together in Plymouth and moving to an alliance contract to underpin the collaboration was an obvious next step.

The alliance

The Plymouth Alliance has responsibility for enabling people to fulfil their potential, support them to become independent and help them achieve their goals. It is working closely with the Council’s teams who perform the statutory functions of the Council in relation to homelessness.

The Alliance went live in April 2019 following a procurement and negotiation period that commenced in June 2018. There are eight members of the Alliance, including the Council.

What changed for people

The Plymouth Alliance has recently commenced. As the alliance progresses, we will add updates about the impact on people living in Plymouth.

Our approach

LH Alliances provided advice and facilitation throughout. We were initially involved in providing alliance information sessions to commissioners and providers a few years before the project started. We helped the council think through their contract and procurement strategies. There were several interdependencies with other services so a range of options for the breadth and scope of the alliance.

As the Council moved to procurement, we provided remote advice through a weekly call with the project lead. We helped with drafting and review of documentation and, at the evaluation stage, independent facilitation of a scenario testing workshop.

Once the alliance members were confirmed, we attended meetings of the prospective alliance to give advice, facilitated a workshop on risk and ran a two day launch workshop for alliance leadership and management teams.

“Plymouth has been on a lengthy journey to remodel our extensive complex needs provision into a single Alliance contract and Linda has been alongside us every step of the way. Her knowledge and expertise was invaluable during the pre-procurement phase whilst supporting us as commissioners, always at the end of the telephone to give advice and guidance and challenge us to think outside of the box.

Linda is a fount of Alliance knowledge nationally and was able to navigate us through a new way of commissioning to agree on a future system that would work for us locally. To have Linda’s assistance in engaging our market of providers was also an asset and meant that we were able to communicate our vision clearly.

Her excellent facilitation skills and calm and professional manner were valued in particular during the procurement process and negotiation phase. During  the entire process Linda was able to keep us focussed on remaining true to our Alliance principles and values, even when change was hard. Linda helped us to have the confidence to be brave and take a huge transformational step forwards!”

Sophie Slater, Co-operative Commissioning, Plymouth City Council

Development of the Alliance


The key issue was to determine scope for the alliance. The Council spent time considering options for merging a range of budgets and the implications of each option. Once this was settled, they then needed to consider the procurement route, especially in light of the existing collaboration. An open tender process was chosen, inviting providers to come together to bid as a group.


Plymouth City Council issued their invitation to bid in the summer of 2018. The selection process included evaluation of group dynamics and innovation in scenario workshops. These were objectively scored by observers.

Once the preferred bidder was announced, a series of design sessions were held to ensure that all the delivery and finance plans had been developed to sufficent detail and satisfaction before the Council finalised the award of the contract.


In Jan 2019, just over two months prior to the commencement of the contract, a two day launch workshop was held with key people from the leadership and management teams and the newly appointed Alliance Manager. This was an opportunity to agree together a number of fundamentals for the alliance, including the values and behaviours. It gave the newer members of the management team a chance to understand the way of working in an alliance and to see their leadership team demonstrate their shared ownership of the responsibilities.


The new alliance went live in April 2019. The contract is for five years with an option to extend to ten years. The annual funding allocation is £7.7 million for year one.

Members of the Alliance are:

  • Plymouth City Council
  • Livewell Southwest
  • Hamoaze
  • Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA)
  • Harbour
  • Shekinah
  • the Zone
  • Plymouth Access To Housing (PATH)
  • Livewest

LH Alliances input

Linda Hutchinson was the delivery partner throughout


  • liaison with procurement, finance and legal advisers to the Council on best practice in alliancing
  • weekly phone call for advice and support to the Council’s project leads
  • advice on development of set of outcomes
  • written advice on alliance governance and subcontracting policy


  • facilitation of council commissioners to determine alliance strategy and options for scope
  • independent facilitation of evaluation scenario session
  • facilitation of risk and finance workshop in the latter stages of the negotiation
  • design and facilitation of two day launch workshop for the Alliance Leadership and Alliance Management Teams


  • alliance information sessions for commissioners and providers
  • input into market engagement events
  • review and drafting of documentation for the procurement process

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