Houses of Parliament commits to giving social enterprises work

Millions of pounds-worth of contracts could be snapped up by social enterprises if they pursue new opportunities to bid for work at the Houses of Parliament.

On 11 July, social entrepreneurs, representatives from leading corporates and public sector leaders gathered at the grand apartments of the Speaker of the House of Commons. At Social Enterprise UK's Social Value event the government reiterated its commitment to incorporating social enterprises into its supply chains and encouraged corporate leaders to do the same.

Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK boss, highlighted the opportunities for social enterprises to be commissioned to participate in the forthcoming refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament. 

Veronica Daley, director of parliamentary procurement services, said: “There may be programmes for billions of pounds... to upgrade this place, subject to a decision by the House.” 

She added that there were other programmes too that were “worth millions of pounds”.

“There’s a lot for you to look out for,” she said.

Daley also spoke of changes in parliamentary procurement that had made engaging social enterprises easier. These included ring-fencing contracts for social enterprises for specified periods of time and ring-fencing contracts for ‘sheltered workshops’ (organisations that employ people with disabilities separately from others).

She revealed that, previously, quotes had been sought for contracts below £50k from existing contractors but now quotes were only sought from social enterprises for jobs of that size. “We really have tried to incorporate as many social enterprises into our supply chain across the board. And that’s for ‘business as usual’, which we spend about £300m on,” she said.

Emphasising the opportunities afforded by the Social Value Act, Daley urged social entrepreneurs to remind commissioners about it. “This is something you should all be doing when you’re working with a supply chain,” she said. “The public sector is awarding now on the basis of more than acceptable quality and cost. That’s a selling point for everybody in this room.”

The Speaker, John Bercow, was delayed by the events in the House on the day that it was revealed that Theresa May would become the new British prime minister, so Rob Wilson, the civil society minister reaffirmed the backing of the government for social ventures.

Pioneers Post has reported before on the minister’s enthusiasm for social enterprise, something he repeated at the event. 

Referring to the political upheaval that has followed the UK’s decision to leave the EU, Wilson (pictured above) said: “Whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead… we will continue to support social enterprises so that they can play a crucial role in achieving the ambitions that we all want to see.

“Let us continue to support social value and support social enterprises and together see if we can create a bigger, stronger society with compassion at its heart.”