Extend social value across all public spend, says report

A new report by Social Enterprise UK has called for the social value act to be strengthened and for social value to be included in devolution deals.

The report, entitled Our Money, Our Future, by the author of the act, Chris White, makes five key recommendations to strengthen the act and ‘ensure that taxpayers receive value for money’.

According to the report, the act is ‘only scratching the surface of what is possible’ and currently accounts for around £25bn of public spending.

It calls for the legislation, which came into force in January 2013, to be extended to cover all public spending and decision-making.

The act needs to be strengthened to require commissioners to ‘account for’ and not just ‘consider’ social value, it says.

It also calls for social value to be included in devolution deals, as devolved administrations can bring the ‘democratic principle, cross-agency working, consensus-building and an aspiration to transform services to the table’.

‘Devolved areas are alive to the potential of social value and its cross-sector, cross-area potential,’ the report states. ‘The social value policy for the Greater Manchester combined authority makes clear that, for them, the social value agenda relates directly to their strategic aims.’

The report also cites the examples of Bristol council and the west Midlands combined authority, which have also adopted social value policies.

‘The mayor and the west Midlands combined authority believe social value can be a catalyst for collaboration, encourage sharing of best practice, provide opportunities for smarter joint commissioning and help drive forward more inclusive regional growth,’ the report adds.

‘They recognise that, as in Manchester, the combined authority is building on the existing work and activity of their constituent local authorities. From Birmingham council putting increasing social value as the second objective of its commissioning strategy to Manchester city council increasing its weighting for social value from 10% to 20%, there is much to build on – and that doesn’t include the pioneering work of the likes of Salford, whose cross-sectoral approach has led the way in local authorities,’ the report states.

The report also praises Preston council’s ‘striking’ use of social value, which has seen the local authority double its procurement spend with local companies, from 14% in 2012-13 to 28% in 2014-15.

In addition, it recommends clearer statutory guidance from central government and an independent, biennial state of social value audit.

Speaking to New Start earlier this month, Mr White said ‘counting social value will not be detrimental to the way your authority operates’.

‘It is not going to cost your authority more by adding social value into your contracts. In fact, there is huge evidence to show that, in the long run, it will deliver services better and save money.’

Introducing the report, the chair of Social Enterprise UK, Victor Adebowale, said: ‘We’re now five years into applying a social value lens to public procurement and there is no doubt about the innovation and social benefit that this created.

‘Given the current and imminent challenges our country now faces, there is little time to waste in exploring how best to further the social value agenda.

‘Chris remains as committed as ever to ensuring that every taxpayer pound is used to get ever-better public value. We, at Social Enterprise UK, are delighted to have commissioned Chris and supported his exploration of how the Act has been used thus far and what is next for the whole concept of social value.’

  • Read the full report here



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