Public Sector Focus

27.06.19

Dr Joshua Pritchard says social value is the answer to spending taxpayers’ money effectively

For decades, successive governments have sought to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent in the most effective and most efficient ways possible. Dr Joshua Pritchard, researcher at Reform - the independent public services think tank – talks social value and efficiency.

Shortly before Labour resoundingly won a second successive general election in June 2001, then-prime minister Tony Blair announced that: “We stand for sustained investment and far-reaching reform in our public services…investment is vital, but on its own is not enough. Investment must drive radical reform.”

Seventeen years later in June 2018, after a decade of budget cuts across the public sector, several changes in government, and a change in demand from citizens (particularly around digital services), David Lidington, minister for the Cabinet Office, argued that: “We want to see public services delivered with values at their heart, where the wider social benefits matter and are recognised.”

READ MORE: Social value: what is it and why?

Whilst much may have changed in the intervening period, the theme of both speeches remained the same: how does government ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent in the most effective and efficient ways possible? As was argued in my recent report for the independent think tank Reform, the answer to this question lies with social value.

Widely utilised by some local authorities since the early 2000s, social value as defined by the 2012 Public Services (Social Value) Act is the broader economic, social, and environmental impacts of goods, services, or the businesses providing them. This could range from ensuring that a construction company uses locally sourced materials, to asking a provider to employ individuals with disabilities or from minority groups. Social value aims to strengthen the relationship between provider and commissioner by looking beyond price and recognising the other types of value providers may bring to a contract, particularly voluntary, community and social enterprises.

Spurred on by the collapse of Carillion in January 2018, social value has become an increasingly integral part of public procurement and an effective means of ensuring that every pound spent by contracting authorities has a greater impact than it otherwise would. Croydon Council, for instance, has created a “Good Employer Charter,” which rewards local businesses that pay a London Living Wage, employ local people, buy local goods, and promote equality and diversity. In return, the businesses receive reduced business rates and a public accreditation.

The latest proposals from the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport would see social value given a 10% weighting in central government contracting decisions. A non-exhaustive list of some 28 different types of social value that contracting authorities could use to assess bids from suppliers has been proposed covering areas such as diversity, cyber security and environmental sustainability, and a public consultation has recently been launched aimed at gathering feedback on the proposed metrics.

READ MORE: Inspiring leadership in social value

However, whilst the new government proposals have great potential to drastically improve how public services are procured, it is imperative that the 10% weighting requirements are accompanied by clear and concise guidance. The risk otherwise is that having to demonstrate and measure social value in clear and quantifiable terms could prove to be a hindrance rather than a help to contracting authorities and providers, particularly given the challenges of comparing competing types of social value that providers may offer. How, for instance, would a bid offering five apprenticeships compare to one promising to use only local goods?

Several groups are therefore working towards making the measurement of social value easier and simpler, including Social Value UK, the Social Value Portal, and the Social Audit Network. To seize opportunities to create social value, the Cabinet Office must draw on their expertise and ensure that appropriate training and existing guidance is used to support the roll-out of the new requirements. Social value otherwise risks becoming nothing more than a tick-box exercise, and the chance to make investment in public services afford wider social benefits may disappear.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Peterborough City Council to tackle homelessness with its own housing company

20/09/2019Peterborough City Council to tackle homelessness with its own housing company

Peterborough City Council to ask for cabinet approval to set up their own Housing Revenue Account (HRA), enabling the council to provide&nbs... more >
Home Office encourages civil servants to volunteer with police

20/09/2019Home Office encourages civil servants to volunteer with police

Civil servants who take up the option of volunteering as special constables will get up to 12 days paid special leave a year, in order to sp... more >
Network rail proposal for UNESCO World Heritage Site

20/09/2019Network rail proposal for UNESCO World Heritage Site

Network Rail has submitted a planning application to City of Edinburgh Council proposing to install a bridge walk and visitor centre at the histori... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been th... more > more last word articles >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

Northern Powerhouse Partner aims to connect the North once again

02/09/2019Northern Powerhouse Partner aims to connect the North once again

In February this year, official Northern Powerhouse Partner, Cognitive Publishing, delivered EvoNorth 2019.  The two day event was designed to amplify and highlight future developments the region has to offer - uniting leaders responsible for fuelling the Northern Powerhouse agenda, including Dr Nicola Headlam, Head of the Northern Powerh... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues that community-led initiatives are a productive way of helping to solve... more >
Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

19/06/2019Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesperson, councillor Philip Bell, highlights the Granite City’s determination to play a leading ... more >
A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

13/06/2019A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

A fifth of the country’s public sector workers say they have NEVER received a ‘thank you’ for doing their job as Public Service... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >