Rob Wilson announces review of Social Value Act

Minister for civil society Rob Wilson MP has announced that there will be a further review of the Social Value Act. The announcement came in the opening plenary at Social Enterprise UK’s Social Value Summit on 8 February 2017.

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 came into force in 2013 and requires public sector commissioners to consider the social value as well as the financial value when awarding contracts.

Wilson said he was “committed to a public sector that is a catalyst for innovation and gets much more social impact for every single pound it spends”.

He added: “I will shortly review the progress of the Social Value Act, starting with a round table with those of you who are already leading the way.”

Lord Young led the last review of the Social Value Act in 2015. At that time, there were calls from Social Enterprise UK and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) for the act to be strengthened because it had not been implemented by many public bodies.

Young’s review concurred with this at the time, finding that incorporation of the act had been “relatively low” and that there was “inconsistent practice” about how to apply the act.

Act "hardly touched" central government, says Blears

In a separate session at the Social Value Summit, Hazel Blears, former communities secretary under Gordon Brown and now chair of Social Investment Business, stated that the act had been implemented by 75% of local authorities.

However, she claimed the act had “hardly touched central government".

She said: "If you take the Ministry of Justice or the Department of Health and look at their spend, it’s tiny. They just don’t get it. People at the centre have quite an old-fashioned way of thinking.”

She called for better information for commissioners. “When the first guidance came out from the Cabinet Office, it was very bland and people quite often need examples and case studies. What you do is empower people who want to do the right thing.”

Chris Catterall of the Public Services Lab, which tries to build the capacity of the social enterprises and charities to successfully compete for public sector contracts, had some recommendations for Wilson to consider during his review.

He suggested social enterprises should be able to recoup some of the taxes they were obliged to pay. “Could there be credits against your business rates for the social value that you provide?" he asked. "So if you are a living wage foundation employer, could you get a credit on your business rates for doing that? That would start to give some teeth to this piece of legislation.”

• Pioneers Post is reporting from the Social Value Summit #SVSummit today. Keep an eye out for more coverage later.