Further to this recent post on the Barrow Cadbury Trust-funded work we are embarked on jointly with Birmingham City Council to turn the Public Services (Social Value) Act into practical reality, I couldn’t help but pay particular attention to a story in today’s Third Sector Online about comments Hazel Blears MP has made about the Act. See this post.
I’ll repeat here the comments I left on the Third Sector Online website in the hope of stirring up a bit of discussion:
Blears has a point, of course, but I don’t think what she says will turn out to be universally true. In Birmingham, with funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust, we (Birmingham & Solihull Social Economy Consortium) are working closely with Birmingham City Council to address the practical implications involved in identifying social value outcomes and embedding these in all of the authority’s purchasing arrangements.
We will also be producing support, guidance and tools for social enterprises to use because we see that a key issue at the moment is that what little guidance does exist has virtually nothing of practical value to say to social enterprises that want to be able to compete under the Act.
I’m under no illusion that the legislation could fall on deaf ears but in Birmingham it isn’t. And we were delighted that Barrow Cadbury had confidence in our plans to work with a key public authority to turn the legislation into consistent, practical action.
We’re at the very early stages of this work and don’t underestimate the difficulties — but you have to start somewhere. It isn’t enough to say “the wording is weak”. It may be. But equally there is an opportunity here to make actions stronger than words. The social enterprise sector has a major role to play in trying to make the Act work as it should — to the benefit of communities, of local authorities trying to implement the law, and social enterprises seeking to compete under its terms…