Guest post from Chris White MP – Why my Social Value Bill will help open up public sector contracts for charity sector

chriswhitemp_JPG_Chris White MP is the Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington. In June 2010 he introduced a Private Members Bill to Parliament called the Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill. The Bill will be considered by a Committee in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19 October 2011. This is an important piece of legislation that could benefit tens of thousands of small businesses, social enterprises and charities. Below, he sets out why this is the case and his vision for how this will work in practice.

Over the past year and a half I have received a great deal of support from NCVO and NCVO Members, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have written, lobbied and supported my Bill.

It has been a long time since the Second Reading took place last year, but my Bill is about to come to its Committee Stage and mark another step forward in the process of reforming public sector commissioning.

My Bill is a very simple piece of legislation, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

If passed into law, the Bill could open up tens of billions of pounds of public sector contracts to charities and voluntary organisations, at a time when many are having to deal with the very difficult economic situation we are presently in.

The Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill, aims to reform the commissioning process by asking public sector bodies to consider how they can improve the “social, economic and environmental” well-being of their areas, through public sector contracts.

This will mean that other factors than pure cost will be considered, and weigh the important contributions that our charities and voluntary organisations make across our communities, when they bid for public sector contracts.

To take one example – imagine a local health authority is seeking to engage new providers to take on some adult social care services. It could merely decide to contract it out to the cheapest provider based on pure financial cost.

But with social value as part of the contract, it would also be asked to look at those providers who have a track record of improving the well-being of residents of the local area, whether that is through mentoring schemes, engaging local volunteers, sourcing food from environmentally sustainable local providers or providing training to young people.

Moreover, the local health authority would also have to engage with voluntary organisations and charities, so that a sensible consensus could be agreed to how social value would be relevant in this contract. This dialogue will give a chance for new innovations to occur within public sector commissioning and drive up standards.

Across the country, local authorities and public sector organisations are already taking on board these ideas. It is generally considered good practice.

My Bill seeks only to make this good practice, standard practice.

This legislation will not lead to any extra costs to the public purse, but will lead to public money being better spent. It will also not lead to any extra burdens on public bodies, but will create a far stronger definition of what “value for money” really is.

The Bill has got to this stage, because of the support that it has received across political parties and across the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.

I hope that with your continued support and with the continued support of all those interested in seeing the voluntary and community sectors succeed and grow in the years ahead, that we can help to make this Bill law and with it, give a real shot in the arm for the sector.

Chloe Stables’s blog

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