The Public Services (Social Value) Act (UK)
Social enterprises have long argued for social value to be taken into account in public procurement. The advantages of such an approach were recognised in the UK’s Public Services (Social Value) Act, which came into force at the beginning of 2013. It states that commissioners must consider how to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area served by them through procurement. It covers public service contracts (including those with a works or goods element) and frameworks for such contracts, applies to the pre-procurement stage of the commissioning process, requires commissioners to consider whether to undertake consultation, and provides an exception in genuinely urgent situations.
It applies to all public service contracts over EU thresholds (134,000 for central government and €207,000 for other public bodies) tendered by all English and some Welsh bodies including local authorities, government departments, National Health Service Trusts, primary care trusts (PCTs), fire and rescue services, and housing associations.
Several local authorities have taken initiatives, and a number of private sector companies have also published papers showing how they contribute to social value.
Lessons on legislation for obtaining social value in procurement
Public authorities can prepare for social value commissioning by:
- establishing a policy that sets out the criteria to be applied
- considering how they should commission services
- taking both the specification and the procurement process into account
- engaging with the market before going out to tender
- building in performance measurement mechanisms
- learning from the performance of the contract
They can also learn from the initiatives that several public authorities have already taken, such as:
- setting up a social value task force (Liverpool)
- adopting a social value charter for suppliers (Birmingham)
- publishing a toolkit for commissioners (Croydon)