Time to toughen up the social value act?

The sector will be watching closely to see whether the review of the legislation will satisfy critics, says Andy Ricketts

Andy Ricketts
Andy Ricketts

There was much excitement about three years ago when it became clear that the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, a private member’s bill tabled by Chris White, the Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington, was likely to become law.

The legislation was designed to make it easier for voluntary sector organisations to win public sector contracts by encouraging commissioners to consider the social as well as the monetary value offered by bidders.

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of the umbrella body Social Enterprise UK, said at the time that the bill was "one of the most important pieces of legislation for our sector in a generation".

But before the act had even come into force, there were rumblings that it needed toughening up to make it more worthwhile for charities and social enterprises.

Holbrook said in February last year, when the act’s measures came into effect, that public bodies should be made to include and account for social value in their commissioning and procurement activities, rather than just consider it.

So it’s refreshing to see the government setting up a group to review the legislation, even though the act is still in its infancy.

Some might see the establishment of the review as a tacit admission that the legislation hasn’t been the knight in shining armour the sector was hoping for, while others will say it is a simply sensible management of a law that has to be interpreted by a host of different public bodies.

Whatever the reasons, the sector will be watching closely to see what, if any, genuine change comes out of it.

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