The Labour Party would reserve some public service delivery contracts for social enterprises if it gained power at the next election, according to Chi Onwurah, the shadow Cabinet Office minister.
Speaking at an event in London yesterday about the role of social enterprises in public services, organised by the consultancy Social Business International, and the think tank Collaborate, Onwurah said that public procurement was a "significant and growing concern for many social enterprises, which feel locked out".
She said that many central and local government contracts were offered at a scale that squeezed social enterprise and charity providers out.
"Many public service sectors are now dominated by the same big companies," she said. "We want to make it easier for not-for-profit, community-focused organisations to win government contracts.
"And to help drive this, a Labour government in 2015 will enable departments to offer some contracts exclusively for organisations in the pursuit of a public service mission."
Onwurah said her party wanted to draw on the innovation of social enterprises.
"We want to see a comprehensive change in the social enterprise landscape," she said. "Rooted in their communities, social enterprises can identify new, effective and enterprising ways of delivering public services."
Onwurah’s comments were welcomed by Celia Richardson, director of the Social Economy Alliance, the campaigning umbrella body for social enterprises, cooperatives and social finance organisations.
"Social enterprises and their supporters will be delighted by this announcement," she said.
"We campaigned long and hard for the new social value act and for changes to EU rules so that local, socially driven organisations can win in public service markets. No one wants to see £10bn a year in taxpayers’ money going to just 20 private businesses. This is not what a 21st-century balanced economy needs, and it's not what public service users need."