Locality, the national network of neighbourhood development organisations, has just published How to Keep it Local — A Five step guide for councillors and commissioners.
As part of its national Keep It Local campaign, Locality is calling on councillors and commissioners to keep their commissioning local and break the cycle of large, inefficient out-sourced contracts that are unresponsive, inflexible and almost invariably awarded to national providers.
The guide highlights five steps can be taken which will not only save money but ensure more responsive local services that offer better outcomes:
1. Take a place-based approach and utilise the full range of local assets.
2. Demonstrate social value, maximising the potential of the Social Value Act across all commissioning and procurement decisions.
3. Commit to building community capacity through commissioning strategies that support local organisations.
4. Impose a maximum value on contracts to ensure that contracts aren’t out of reach of smaller organisations.
5. Involve local people through co-design.
It is significant that the Social Value Act, if fully implemented, makes it possible for commissioners to do virtually all of these things in a co-ordinated way and within a social value framework — as can be seen in Birmingham City Council’s social value policy and its Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility.
But the sad fact is, in the current climate of spending cuts and crisis management, the Social Value Act is not being as widely utilised as any of us once hoped would be the case. Its application is partial and inconsistent, and this is especially so in health commissioning.
We have been working to try and help social enterprises report more proactively on the social value they achieve — including publishing a simple guide for how to identify additional social value outcomes in contracts. We need to do more to ensure that commissioners hear the social value message — especially from providers already in their supply-chains.
The Locality guide is a really useful contribution to the current debate about commissioning, service redesign and social value — not least because it goes beyond the blunt “how do we get more for less” arguments that many service commissioners are understandably preoccupied with.