Vale of Glamorgan Council: Changing public procurement

With the help of Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, Vale of Glamorgan Council is changing how they procure to benefit the foundational economy.

Procurement is where an organisation acquires goods, services or works from an external source. Often it uses competitive bidding. Very simply it is the shopping an organisation does to deliver its aims and objectives.

The Council is the biggest spender in the Vale, spending £186 million per annum. Council staff believe they have a responsibility with that spend to ensure they deliver the best value to the area including skills, health, well-being, environmental benefits and employment.

When the Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund was launched, the Council saw an opportunity to strengthen their procurement practices to help meet these aims, including better support for SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) which are recognised as the ‘lifeblood of the area’.

Funding was awarded for a project that aimed to grow local SMEs and to increase the number of these delivering Council contracts. Maddy Sims, who leads the Council’s foundational economy work, realised that this would also require changing unhelpful perceptions that the Council’s procurement was a closed rather than open process.

Recognising that dialogue was crucial, the project focused on listening to local businesses, the use of data and trying to ‘humanise’ the process of bidding for Council contracts so that more SMEs could benefit.

SMEs often don’t have guaranteed income at the end of the month. Because of this, Maddy explains, it’s important to remove barriers to the bidding process as businesses cannot afford to be constantly bidding for contracts that do not materialise.

Through the Council’s conversations with local SMEs they found that many faced frustrating – though easily rectifiable – issues that prevented them from winning Council contracts. Many had not heard of Sell2Wales (an initiative from the Welsh Government helping SMEs work successfully with the public sector) whilst others had various small but disheartening problems – such as not having codes set up correctly.

Central to resolving these issues has been a proactive approach to building relationships with local business and asking ‘what can we do to help you work with us?’ rather than just assuming that SMEs would approach the Council for information or advice.

The Fund has allowed the Council to engage with more than 1,000 businesses since June 2020 through events with Business Wales, Sell2Wales and others to help understand and resolve tendering problems.

The Council’s new conversational approach also works to take away the ‘waste of time factor’ and the overwhelming feeling many SMEs currently face when tendering. Maddy explains that these factors not only lead to some SMEs not bidding, but also rushing bids, making them less likely to succeed.

To help encourage and reassure local SMEs therefore, the Council are making case study films featuring some of the local businesses they’ve worked with, including a story of one who, after gaining confidence in tendering through providing vending machines to the Council, went on to win a multi-million pound contract with the NHS. 

An animation to make procurement look simpler and more exciting has also been commissioned and the Council has also increased the number of mailshots sent to businesses to grow awareness of the contracts available.

As a result of these efforts, 100 new local businesses have registered with Sell2Wales and the Council has taken other steps to make its contracts more accessible to SMEs – such as breaking up a large-scale contract into smaller ones that SMEs are more able to tender for.

Conversations with local businesses not only identified barriers to tendering and winning contracts but also allowed the Council to better understand the local supply chain and gaps in the market. This understanding is vital for the Council to support the local area with its procurement, for example potentially through a supply chain policy or proactive procurement to help stimulate activity in a supply chain void.

The project has also helped catalyse other new ways of working. The Council’s procurement is not centralised, and the procurement is devolved to different directorates. Currently, there is no centralised reporting about how much is spent locally which makes it difficult to measure the full impact of Council procurement on SMEs or the local foundational economy in general. The challenge here is the lack of data. The Challenge Fund project has highlighted this gap, which the Council recognises as a positive first step in overcoming and rectifying it.

An important learning point Maddy would like to convey to others doing similar work is simply to “put yourself in their (SMEs) shoes and consider what they’re going through”. She explains “it’s a lot of listening, talking and then finding out if you can change your processes to bring mutual benefit. Anybody looking to do this kind of project, talk to as many people as possible.”

Procurement is the main part of the Council’s spend and Maddy feels that the Challenge Fund project has really opened up the potential power of that spend to benefit the foundational economy. It has given the Council new insights into where they will go next, reshaping their procurement service, standardising it and measuring the locality of their spend in a more precise way.

Ultimately, the Council wants to support SMEs to deliver skills, jobs – and often many other benefits linked to a strong foundational economy. It also wants to give commissioners more confidence and awareness to spend with locality and value in mind.

This case study was compiled by Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales as part of supporting a community of practice of Challenge Fund projects sharing learning and collaboration.

A Guide to the Well-being of Future Generations Act

It will make the public bodies listed in the Act think more about the long-term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach.

Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales is the leading organisation for sustainable development in Wales. Our mission is to make Wales the first Sustainable Nation. Cynnal Cymru’s overall focus is on developing and promoting a sustainable, resource-efficient and low-carbon society through engagement with enterprises, the third sector and communities. We connect local and national organisations together from across Wales to help each other develop more sustainable solutions and deliver on the Well-being of Future Generations Act. This will help us to create a Wales that we all want to live in, now and in the future.

To make sure we are all working towards the same vision, the Act puts in place seven well-being goals.

Sustainable Development Principle and Ways of Working

The Act puts in place a ‘sustainable development principle’ which tells organisations how to go about meeting their duty under the Act.

There are five things that public bodies need to think about to show that they have applied the sustainable development principle. Following these ways of working will help us work together better, avoid repeating past mistakes and tackle some of the long-term challenges we are facing.

Why do we need this law?

Wales faces a number of challenges now and in the future, such as climate change, poverty, health inequalities and jobs and growth. To tackle these we need to work together. To give our children and grandchildren a good quality of life we need to think about how the decisions we make now will impact them. This law will make sure that our public sector does this.

More information

For a summary of the Act see a copy of the booklet ‘The Essentials’.

You can find out more about the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act on the the Welsh Government website.

Community Care Collaborative: Transforming Primary Care in Wrexham

The Community Care Collaborative (CCC) is a Community Interest Company that provides an innovative and integrated approach to healthcare in Wales.

Founded by Dr. Karen Sankey in 2018, CCC developed a very clear vision for primary care after realising that the current model was failing at several levels.

Through research and testing, it found that patients often visit a doctor with an issue that has a social or mental health basis, which it believes GPs are not equipped to deal with in the best way.

Added to this, it’s thought that the volume of patients that a GP is expected to see in a day on top of other duties such as medicines, makes it impossible to provide an adequate service to every single person.

The solution is a model which delivers “an alternative model of health, social care and wellbeing in which GPs (doctors) are able to focus on providing medical care, and where, through working collaboratively at a community level with other agencies and patients themselves, the social and emotional needs of patients are given equal priority to their medical needs”, as its mission statement shares.

“The Challenge Fund seemed to me to be very much about trying to do things differently and about taking a chance to really give something a go to find out whether it works or not.”

Before receiving a Challenge Fund grant, CCC had already secured contracts to trial this model at three GP practices in Wrexham and had been granted permission to take over its first practice in September 2019 with the second and third following in January and April 2020.

However, the Challenge Fund grant has been essential in enabling CCC to develop its ideas further and successfully set up and recruit in a vast number of different areas of health and social care over the last 12 months.

Alison Hill of Capacity Lab, who assisted in bringing the model to life said that, “The Challenge Fund seemed to me to be very much about trying to do things differently and about taking a chance to really give something a go to find out whether it works or not.”

Firstly, CCC recruited a permanent emotional wellbeing team which is present at all three practices and aims to provide a first point of contact for patients that are in need of wellbeing support directly after booking an appointment.

What commonly happens in these cases is patients are referred on to other mental health organisations and can bounce back, so a key focus of this team is to reduce onward referrals by providing services in-house such as support groups, medication reviews, memory assessments and psychotherapy.

The organisation has seen that utilising this model alone has seen onward referrals reduce by over 57% compared with the previous evaluation period (Apr-Sept 2019).

Not only does this mean that patients are being provided a more appropriate and immediate response, but the cost savings to other health and social care services are likely to be significant. A social impact evaluation of CCC’s Emotional Well-Being Team found that it had delivered social value worth more than £1million in its first 12 months to November 2020, representing a social return on investment of 6.42:1.

More important to those involved is that 33% of people supported within this model (who were asked for feedback), said that without support they may have taken their own lives, further demonstrating the positive impact that the model is having.

To support the referral process, CCC recognise that as first responders to calls, front desk staff play a vital role in the patient process so it invested in training to develop them into ‘Care Navigators’. People within this role now have the knowledge to respond to individual patient needs and signpost them towards the relevant team, rather than automatically referring them to a GP.

Due to the high level of demand during Covid-19 and the huge upheaval of a system that has been in place for years, the booking system is an area that CCC is still working to make as effective as possible through continuous testing and experimentation.

Alison says, “We tried eConsult (Lite), which didn’t work out so we changed it and adapted it…it’s improving, but that is something that we haven’t got right yet and we still need to work very much on.”

Despite the obstacles faced by the pandemic, CCC is really proud of its progress this year, although there are some areas where work still need to be done, especially in recruiting full time salaried GPs.

Although CCC has been able to employ some part time doctors, Alison explains that a huge obstacle primary care is currently facing is that many GPs are working as temporary doctors known as locums, which she says, “In terms of finances, it’s going to destroy primary care.”

As they move towards the goal of recruiting more full time GPs in 2021, the team is confident that this integrated model will prove attractive to GPs, as it gives them more opportunity to concentrate solely on medical needs and to patients as they will be able to access a much wider range of inhouse support.

As CCC looks towards the future, it will be concentrating its efforts on recruiting full time salaried GPs, and building partnerships from within the Welsh Government’s FECF Community of Practice, as well as other organisations that can help to replicate this model across Wales.

The Future of Mobility

The strategy also contains details of the next steps for the government’s Future of mobility grand challenge.

Alongside the strategy, the Department for Transport (DfT) has published the summary of responses to its Future of mobility call for evidence.

Although not overly relevant to us here in Wales from a policy point of view, there are lots of lessons to be learned on the future of mobility and issues of air quality, active travel and the South Wales metro area. It can be used to look at the problems surrounding current transport trends and ideas for the future including case studies.

The document states the below definitions which are useful in this context:

Active travel: The terms ‘active travel’ and ‘walking and cycling’ are used in this document
to encompass a range of methods of active mobility, including trips made by wheelchair,
mobility scooters, adapted cycles and e-bikes.

Car clubs (sometimes known as car-sharing): Car clubs use electronic systems to
provide customers unattended access to cars for short-term rental, often by the hour.
Business models can be categorised into round-trips, where the vehicle must be returned
to its home station, and flexible, which allows one-way trips. Vehicles may be owned by
individuals and lent out on a peer-to-peer basis via an intermediary platform, or form part of
a fleet owned by a single organisation.

Demand responsive transport: A flexible service that provides shared transport in response to requests from users specifying desired locations and times of pickup and delivery. Dial-a-ride services scheduled through next day or advance bookings are a traditional example.

Dynamic demand responsive transport: More recent applications of demand responsive transport seek to work dynamically, adjusting routes in real time to accommodate new pickup requests often made minutes in advance.

Fractional ownership: An ownership model that involves a group of people purchasing or
leasing a good (such as a vehicle) and splitting the costs.

Micromobility: The use of small mobility devices, designed to carry one or two people, or
‘last mile’ deliveries. E-scooters and e-bikes are examples.

Mobility as a Service: The integration of various modes of transport along with
information and payment functions into a single mobility service. Recent services that
allow customers to purchase monthly subscription packages giving them access to public
transport and private taxi and bike hire schemes are an example.

Ride-hailing: Ride-hailing services use smartphone apps to connect paying passengers
with licensed taxi drivers or private hire vehicle operators who provide rides for profit.
Ride-sharing (sometimes known as car-pooling): Formal or informal sharing of rides
between unlicensed drivers and passengers with a common or similar journey route.

Ride-sharing platforms charge a fee for bringing together drivers and passengers. Drivers share trip costs with passengers rather than making a profit.

Shared mobility: Transport services and resources that are shared among users, either
concurrently or one after another. Public transport, or mass transit, as well as newer models
such as car-sharing, bike-sharing and ride-sharing, are all types of shared mobility.

Current UK Car Statistics

  • 74% of adults have a driving license (80% of men and 69% of women)
  • 76% of households have access to a car (35% having two or more)
  • 61% of all personal trips are made by car (78% of personal trip mileage)
  • 85% of people travel by car at least once a week
  • 87% of people agree that they need to own a car in their current lifestyle
  • There are six cars for every ten people in the UK but the average car is unused 96% of the time.
  • Parking spaces occupy around 15-30% of a typical urban area

Air and Noise Pollution

Air pollution remains the top environmental risk to human health in the UK. It is worse in towns and cities and road transport accounts for 80% of nitrogen oxide concentrations at the roadside. The social cost of sleep disturbance, annoyance, and not to mention health impacts such as heart attacks, strokes and dementia from noise pollution was estimated at £7-10 billion in 2010.


The time lost as a result of congestion costs the UK economy approximately £2billion a year before we consider the serious environmental costs of driving that is not fuel-efficient in stop-start traffic.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Transport is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, accounting for 27% of all emissions (road transport accounting for 91% of these emissions).

Health Issues

The lack of physical activity due to modern lifestyles and reliance on personal cars is a cause of obesity. Around 60% of adults in Wales are overweight or obese, with the UK currently having the highest obesity levels in Western Europe.

Public Health Wales and Orangebox save 134 tonnes of C02

Public Health Wales has embraced the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic and social sustainability and so this was incorporated in to the brief produced for furnishing the building. In order to achieve the retrofit PHW took a new and innovative approach to procuring office equipment, furnishings and flooring using as much reused and remanufactured equipment and products as possible.

As an organisation dedicated to improving public health and well-being, PHW felt that this should be central to activities, including procurement of goods and services, and the refit was identified as an opportunity to demonstrate this approach.

They already had a large number of quality furniture and fittings in their existing offices across Wales and it was felt that these items, with some cleaning, refurbishment and re-design, could be repurposed for use at the new office space in Cardiff Bay instead of being sent to landfill, and could be combined with other new or re-used items in a cohesive and functional style appropriate for the new office space.

It was also important that plans took in to account the sustainability challenges for the public sector in Wales including the Wellbeing of Future Generation Act 2015.

So PHW wanted to ensure the use of existing stock, including those which may need re-designed along with sourcing additional refurbished and pre-owned items. Sourcing of new items would only occur where absolutely necessary preferably using recycled content and eco design principles.

PHW took an innovative approach to finding the right supplier. A supplier day was arranged to brief potential suppliers who were given the opportunity to meet representatives from PHW and gain an understanding of the requirements. This new approach meant moving away from traditional procurement scoring where cost is usually given the greatest weighting to one where sustainability had the greater weighting taking up 70% of the scoring requirements.

The tender was awarded to a consortia made up of three companies, Rype, Greenstream and one of our premium members – Orangebox as their bid demonstrated the most sustainable approach.

The Outcome

The bulk of the furniture for the new office was either reused/re-manufactured from existing furniture or sourced from elsewhere. Many of these items had they not been reused would have been destined for landfill. In the refit 1,143 individual items were reused, these items were recovered and cleaned, in addition a further 1,270 pieces were re-manufactured (where parts are repaired, reconditioned, or replaced). Desk tops were repaired and chairs and soft furnishings being recovered with new fabrics. Around 2,563 items were used for the office refit overall with 45% of the items being re-used, 49% being re-made and only 6% of the items were brand new but encompassed sustainability credentials.

Our premium member Orangebox provided approximately 550 remanufactured office chairs for the project as part of their Remade programme. Orangebox Remade involves chairs that are near or past their warranty being returned to Orangebox and then collected by a local social enterprise, who remanufactures the chairs to as good as new condition. Each remanufactured chair saves 32kg of CO2, a 60% reduction in total compared to the new chair. 98% of parts are recyclable; components removed are either kept for reuse or returned to Orangebox’s locally based suppliers for reprocessing into new parts.

A mix of new and reused carpet tiles were used to carpet the offices floor areas. The flooring was designed to be accessible to all users with a number of the walkways designed with bespoke colour contrasts meaning that a greater percentage of carpet tiles needed to be sourced from new stock to meet the design needs. Although the ratio of recycled to new was lower than first anticipated the use of reused tiles, supplied and fitted by Greenstream, made a significant contribution to the project as it aligned closely  with PHW’s overarching aims and objectives of extended community benefits.

In total the project saved around 134 tonnes of C02 – the equivalent to traveling around 400,000 miles by car, or taking 41 cars of the road for an entire year.

Orangebox – is one of the UK’s largest office furniture manufacturers. Their in-house design team are committed to ensuring their growth comes from products and services that are as environmentally smart as they are commercially successful. This has included the design of the first office chair in Europe to be ‘Cradle to Cradle’ accredited, the set-up of an in-house recycling (take back) service and more recently, an Innovate UK supported project looking at adapting the business toward Circular Economy thinking. Looking forward their aim is to encourage their organisation, customers, distributors & suppliers to adopt a more holistic approach to product life-cycles and reduced environmental impacts.

Wales’ very first ‘energy positive’ house with a social conscience

The project is a celebration of low carbon energy research from all over Wales, bringing together universities, industries and the government. The house is capable of exporting energy generated on site to the grid, eradicating energy bills and supplying Wales with clean, renewable energy.

SOLCER House combines advances in sustainable technologies in order to design a house that fits within the social housing framework, meaning Registered Social Landlords are capable of building homes similar to SOLCER House at the same price but sharing net benefits amongst residents, their value chain and the environment. SOLCER House cost around £1,000 per m2, which is within the social housing pricing benchmark.

The construction materials and low carbon technologies were procured from within Wales, as much as possible, showcasing the ability of Wales to deliver low carbon innovation to the world. The energy positive SOLCER House was built with high levels of thermal insulation and reduced air leakage in order to minimise energy demand. The energy efficient design includes:

  • Cenin low carbon cement.
  • Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs). They have higher thermal insulation than timber, supplied by SIPS Wales in Llandovery.
  • Transpired solar air collectors. This is part of the cladding, which is made up of small perforations in the surface to allow heat to be captured and circulated by a ventilation system, manufactured and installed Central Roofing South Wales.
  • Low emissivity double glazed aluminium clad timber window frame and doors that can save up to 8 pence per kWh per window, manufactured by Vellacine in Cardiff.
  • 4.3kWp photovoltaic solar panel system on the south facing roof.
  • Lithium ion storage battery, supplied by Victron Energy.

SOLCER House is the first energy positive house built in the UK and will deliver on critical targets set by the EU to build ‘nearly zero’ energy buildings by 2020. The project is a systematic model design of how these targets can be achieved.

Orangebox – placing responsible design at the heart of its business

Orangebox is a furniture design and manufacturing company with sustainability at the heart of its operations. Based outside Cardiff, Orangebox realises its large impact it has on the environment through material use in products, and the processes used to put them together. Their front-end design process recognises the importance of material sustainability and longevity. Orangebox wants to eliminate the use of toxic materials in their value chain and encourages circular economy approach for products at ‘end of life’ stage.

All wood used in production is 100% FSC and PEFC certified, with 78% of suppliers based in the UK. 100% of electricity in the South Wales facility comes from wind and hydro energy.

In 2007, Orangebox opened a recycling plant in South Wales, where old office chairs could be returned, whether one of their own or not. The chairs are assessed to see whether they can be reused after their one cycle life and donated to Saint David’s Foundation, a charity providing hospice care in South Wales. All other chairs are disassembled into different separate materials and recycled.

Orangebox developed and manufactured the first Cradle to Cradle certified office chair in Europe in 2009. The ARA Task chair turned conventional office chair design on its head in order to achieve 98% recyclability. The frame and back membrane eliminated fasteners and binding materials for an interference fit. Binding materials together is an irreversible process and once binding materials are applied, it renders the recipient material parts unrecyclable. The interference fit allows for smooth design and easy disassembly. The new arm part is a single material component which can easily be broken down into constituent parts. The ARA Task chair has resulted in a reduced raw material exhaustion and production costs.

Overall, Orangebox have over doubled their annual turnover whilst also reducing material waste by 30% in just 3 years.

Orangebox have been recognised for their contributions to sustainability through their low carbon, circular economy and cradle to cradle approach, winning the Furniture Maker’s Sustainability Award in 2013. 

How Dŵr Cymru are protecting our communities for generations to come

Dŵr Cymru supplies safe and reliable drinking water to over three million customers every day, while taking away waste water to treat, before it can be safely returned to the environment. In providing these services, Dŵr Cymru depends on a huge network of assets, most of which have extremely long lives, meaning that the decisions taken today will have an important impact on customers, the economy and on the environment for many years to come.

Ensuring that the company has a long term plan to ensure they can continue to provide these services and be ready to tackle the challenges of an ever-changing environment is central to their long-term vision, ‘Our Sustainable Future’. This plan, originally published in 2007, outlines Dŵr Cymru’s vision for the next 25 years and how they strive to provide better value for money for customers.

Dŵr Cymru’s unique model not only benefits customers by ensuring all profits and reinvested in the business for the future benefit of customers, but also benefits the wider environment in its car communities. This includes delivering its best ever environmental performance in 2015, thanks to investment at its wastewater treatment works and sewer network. These play an essential role in protecting the environment and improving bathing water quality and the investment helped Wales secure 41 Blue Flags.

‘What does not-for-profit mean?’ via Dwr Cymru Welsh Water

The company is also leading the way in finding sustainable solutions to tackle challenges to environmental performance. With the company now generating around 25% of its energy needs from renewable sources on its various sites, it is also investing:

  • £40 million in a sustainable draining programme – RainScape – in Llanelli and Gowerton which offers an innovative solution to tackle urban flooding and protect local communities.
  • £24 million in transforming Five Fords wastewater treatment workings in Wrexham, North Wales, into an innovative Energy Park – incorporating solar photovoltaic (PV), advanced anaerobic digestion, wind and hydro generation schemes at the sites.
  • Managing 14 hydro turbines at various reservoirs across Wales – worth around @20 million – has doubled the amount of renewable energy generated. These hydro schemes produce 40GWh of energy which is enough to power 9,000 homes.

“We work hard every day to make sure our water and environment is looked after for now, and for years to come. By finding sustainable and better ways of doing things, we can keep our customers’ bills down and put more money back into protecting our communities for generations to come.”

Chris Jones, Chief Executive

Innovation Shorts: How Brother is protecting 36,780 trees through recycling

Brother Industries is a world leading innovator in printer technology and solutions, with its UK operations headed in Manchester. The company has been heralded since 2011 for winning many coveted industry awards is areas such as design, innovation, marketing success, people development and sustainability.

As a world-wide brand, Brother Industries has embraced sustainability by implementing environmental stewardship measures and encouraging behaviour change with its staff to reduce consumption and end waste to landfill; aspiring to maximise positive impacts for local communities, employees, stakeholders and the environment. Brother Industries works under The 5Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Reform, Recycle, which help the company strive for the most innovative, creative and ambitious ways to do more with less and reduce environmental impact (read Brother Industries UK “Community Engagement Report 14/15” here).

The Community Engagement Report highlights many successes through the 14/15 financial year, including a 38% reduction in energy usage in 4 years and reducing its carbon footprint by 18% in the same period. As a printing technology company, Brother Industries UK largest stream of waste is paper use. In just one year the company has slashed its paper use by 32%, saving 132,00 sheets of paper.

Brother’s manufacturing plant based in Ruabon, Wrexham, is an accolade to its environmental objective, where they recycle or reuse 100% of toner cartridges and ink cartridges sent back to the facility. It is an encouraging and innovative new way of doing business, a scheme which is of no cost to customers.

The benefits of recycling are twofold: not only do the returned cartridges help conserve resources, but Brother Industries makes a donation to Cool Earth every time a cartridge is recycled. The donation enables this charity to carry out vital work to safeguard the most threatened rainforests around the world through working with over 100 rainforest communities. Through the 144,446 toner cartridges and 5,353 inkjet cartridges donated and recycled in 14/15, Brother Industries converted this to a donation of £3065 to Cool Earth, enabling the protection of the equivalent of 61 acres of forest (36,780 trees!).

As Brother Industries comes to the end of another financial year, we wait in anticipation for further success stories from their pioneering North Wales factory.


  • Queens Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development 2011-2016
  • Buyers Laboratory’s 2015 Outstanding Achievement for Energy Efficiency Award
  • CIO Tech Company of the Year 2014
  • PC Pro Best Printer Brand 2014: Innovative and reliable products
  • Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Manufacturing Excellence Award: Hexagon Metrology Award for Sustainable Manufacturing 2014
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