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‘Social value’ bill could change public services

Councils and government departments could have to consider ‘social value’ when awarding contracts for services and works, if plans in of a private member’s bill are accepted.

Conservative MP Chris White put forward the bill to encourage organisations to look at how developments could improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the area, instead of just choosing the cheapest option.

Currently councils have to achieve the ‘best value’ for the taxpayer’s money when procuring services. The bill has cross-party support, and could have considerable wider benefits to British businesses.

White said: “I think the bill is needed to make what is essentially best practice for many public organisations, become standard practice.

“It will send out a powerful message to charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises up and down the country that we want greater involvement; we want to support them and we want to give them a greater role in our local community life.

“This culture change in public sector commissioning could have a big impact across the services that we use every day, from adult social care to recycling, so the potential is huge.”

Several amendments have been made to the bill, including a clause to disregard social value where the need for urgency is paramount, and the removal of commitment for the Government to publish a National Social Enterprise Strategy, or for local authorities to promote social enterprise in their areas.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the amendments “would focus the bill exclusively on pre-procurement and services” in order to “better pinpoint the types of contracts which have the greatest direct impact on individuals and communities”.

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