We need stronger legislation, says creator of social value act

The author of the social value act has called on the government to strengthen the legislation in the run-up to this week’s budget statement.

Speaking to New Start, former Conservative MP Chris White, who proposed the act in 2012 as a private members bill, said there is ‘huge potential to take it further’.

The social value act come into force in January 2013 and requires all public sector commissioners, including local authorities, to consider the social, economic and environmental impact of their spending.

Mr White said the legislation currently impacts or helps ‘shape’ around £25bn a year of public sector spending, which is only around 10% of the total figure (£268bn).

Lord Young reviewed the act for the government in 2015 and strongly recommended a second review should take place within two years.

Mr White has been commissioned by Social Enterprise UK to undertake his own review of the act, which will be published in the next few weeks.

In it, he will make the case for social value and recommend the legislation by extended to cover all public spending.

‘We wanted to strengthen and extend the act, but Lord Young said there were three barriers – measurement, awareness and understanding,’ the former MP told New Start.

‘In our view, we can demonstrate there is sufficient evidence to show the act can be extended and strengthened.

‘Counting social value will not be detrimental to the way your authority operates,’ he added. ‘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.’

He said that the act could be extended to make public bodies account for social value, rather than just consider it. It could also be strengthened to include spending on goods and works, which are currently excluded.

‘The third sector has been massively enthusiastic about the act,’ he added. ‘We’ve seen some of our major metropolitan areas, like the West Midlands and Greater Manchester combined authorities, use it. This should encourage government to do its part and recognise the act can be a very powerful tool to develop stronger communities and deliver better services.

‘The language of strong communities works for everyone,’ he added. ‘At the end of the day, the budget is about procurement and the best way to spend public money.

‘This is up there on the agenda and it needs to be recognised,’ said Mr White. ‘It [social value] has to be spread right across local government and central government as well. Central government needs to show leadership on this.’

Earlier this month, Salford’s Social Value Alliance launched a campaign to use social value to make Salford 10% better.

Salford’s mayor, Paul Dennett and Social Value Alliance chair, Alison Page, are backing the campaign, which aims to achieve a number of measures by 2021, including getting 4,690 more people volunteering in Salford and cutting annual household waste by 42kg.

‘Our Social Value Alliance, made up of organisations from across the public, private, voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, has mapped the difference that could be made to Salford if we delivered a 10% improvement in 11 social, environmental and economic outcomes,’ said Ms Page.

‘We can all work together to use social value – in procurement, in business, in community activity, in development and growth, and in public services – to make the city a better place.’

The campaign was unveiled alongside a council report into the ‘social impact’ of its spending, which showed that spending ‘local’ has put £111m directly into the city’s economy.


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james Williams
james Williams
6 years ago

I think the social value act has been an extremely helpful piece of legislation focusing the minds of commissioners and contractors alike in new ways. It gave a new and welcome focus to my previous employers community regeneration programme in the Housing sector. In my experience with in the Housing sector the issue was the sheer number of contracts and how best to support contractors and align their strengths to local needs..Obviously there is still more to be done and I look forward to reading Chris White’s review in the next couple of weeks.

Neil Mclnroy
Neil Mclnroy
6 years ago

Expanding the Social Value Act to make Social Value a requirement as oppose to a consideration and spreading this right across Local and Central Government is essential if we are to use the wealth at our disposal to address wider challenges and grow our places, both economically and socially.

Matthew Jackson – Deputy Chief Executive at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) recently explored this in more detail here;

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