New Conservative leader David Cameron has promised to introduce deregulated social enterprise zones to combat social breakdown.
After visiting leading social enterprises in London last Wednesday, including Greenwich Leisure and Coin Street Community Builders, Cameron pledged to "remove the many regulations and bureaucratic obstacles that hold social entrepreneurs back today".
He promised a new version of the 1980s enterprise zones, which exempted firms from taxes and regulations. But the new zones would be designed specifically for social enterprises, rather than for-profit businesses, and located in deprived communities.
"In every part of Britain, inspiring social entrepreneurs are pioneering solutions to the complex problems of family breakdown, chaotic home environments, drugs and low aspirations," said Cameron. "We trust them to restore respect and we'll remove the barriers that stand in their way.
"We want to create a level playing field for social enterprises so they can win more contracts to deliver community and public services."
Cameron's plans follow a proposal he made before he became Tory leader - to create deregulated 'social action zones' for the whole voluntary sector.
Jonathan Bland, chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, said he was delighted the Conservatives were taking social enterprise seriously.
"Yesterday, we took 13 shadow ministers on a tour of social enterprises delivering public services and gave Cameron the opportunity to meet more than 30 social enterprise leaders," he said. "The coalition is looking with interest at their proposals, including social enterprise zones, which could remove some of the barriers to social enterprises developing and growing. We look forward to feeding into future policy."
The coalition has called for tax relief for social enterprises and has criticised Labour for not turning its aspirations for social enterprise into more concrete assistance.