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Creating, not wasting social value

2nd November 2012 Posted by

Does it really require the intervention of Parliament, through its new Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, for us to introduce more public services that provide a wider social benefit?

As spending has been squeezed over the past few years I have witnessed just how much support from Local Government to the ‘third sector’ has been cut. If this trend continues, we risk losing even more of the cost effective social support that voluntary and community sector organisations provide in our communities. Once this vital support has been lost, it is down to local authorities to pick up the services they provided, and this is often a more costly option.

While mulling over this concern, I spoke to Ray Georgeson, Head of the Resource Association and an authority on the voluntary and community sector, about whether we could develop some fresh thinking around identifying the social value in the way public services are procured. The result is our newly published report Creating social value: The role of the waste and resource management industry which was launched at Church House Conference Centre in London on 22 October 2012.

Creating social value report launch image

What struck me most about the findings of the report was that the intelligent use of public procurement could go a long way to address this issue. Some of the key findings include:

  • An additional £600 million could be generated in social value by 2020 as people who are currently unemployed gain new roles in the waste and resource management sector as it is reshaped to meet the needs of the circular economy.
  • An extra £26 million could be generated each year if third sector organisations increase their share of local authority collection contracts from the current average of 0.25 per cent to two per cent.
  • This figure of £26 million could be increased further to an annual £54 million if a greater proportion is assigned to re-use projects.

So what’s holding us back? We need to ensure that social value is properly taken into account when tenders for public services are evaluated and an agreed measurement system needs to be put in place. In defining the measurement of social value we must guard against the vagaries we see in the application of ‘best value’ which, in my view, can be too subjective.

With the findings of this report still fresh, I am keen to ensure that we do not waste this opportunity to create real social value so we can begin procuring with our hearts, as well as our heads.

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