WHITE CHRISChris White is the Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington. Follow Chris on Twitter.

Today the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, also known
as the Social Value Act, which I introduced over two and a half years ago, will
be officially implemented across public sector bodies including NHS Trusts,
local authorities and central government departments.

The Act is short and simple. But it seeks to change the way
that public sector bodies design contracts so that they consider what
additional social, economic and environmental well-being they can produce in
the way that they deliver the services that we all use. It builds on a number
of principles which the Conservative Party articulated in the run up to the
General Election.

Firstly, it seeks to focus public service delivery on
outcomes rather than inputs. Public services should not just be about the
amount of money you spend, but what you achieve with that money. The Social
Value Act asks public sector commissioners to think carefully about the
contracts they are designing and to see how we can get as many positive
outcomes for our communities as possible through the way that we deliver public

Secondly, it is hoped that the Act will benefit social
enterprises, charities and community organisations who I believe are best
placed to deliver many of our public services. In opposition, we rightly sought
to champion the potential that exists in civil society and the social
enterprise sector to improve our public services. These organisations are
rooted in the very communities they serve, and this makes them best placed to
develop tailored solutions to deal with some of our most pressing challenges.
In designing contracts which take account of social value, I believe that more
of these organisations will have the opportunity to win public service contracts
and show what they can achieve.

Thirdly, the Act asks public bodies, such as local
authorities, to consider consultation when deciding how social value can be
implemented in public service contracts. I strongly support the Government’s
Localism message, but that doesn’t just mean devolving powers to local
authorities, it must also mean devolving powers to local citizens as well. In
asking public bodies to take this step, I hope the Act will encourage more
co-operation in the  development of
public services, so that services respond to the needs and aspirations of
citizens, rather than being given to them as a fait accompli.

The Government, and particularly the Minister for Civil
Society Nick Hurd, have got behind this Act and are planning to integrate
social value into the new Commissioning Academy, which is also due to be
launched today. The Act has also received support from the Labour Party and
Liberal Democrats, so I hope will form the basis for a long term consensus on
the future of public services.

Crucially, the Act received the support of civil society
organisations and the social enterprise sector and was championed by Social
Enterprise UK, NCVO, ACEVO, NAVCA and a variety of other organisations. They
have pressed for this Act as a means for their members to show what they are
capable of delivering in public services and I am glad that parliamentarians
listened to their voices.

However this is a step on a journey. A radical change in the
way that we design our public services is not going to occur overnight and it
will require persistent engagement over a long period of time with
commissioners, sector organisations and policy makers.

But as we look forward, I believe that the Social Value Act
is an example of how we can make progress. A criticism has often been that the
rhetoric on public services reform or support for civil society has not been
followed through in practice – the Social Value Act is an example of those
beliefs being put into practice. While changes in procurement may not be the
most headline grabbing of news stories, we should not be afraid to publicise
these achievements. 

Most importantly, small measures such as this can make a big
difference for communities on the ground and I will be continuing to look
closely at this Act’s implementation to ensure that we are getting the outcomes
it intended.

Today, however, is an opportunity for us to celebrate the Act
and show that with effort and patience, we can deliver on its principles.

Comments are closed.