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On the 15th January 2014 we organised a roundtable event for local authorities in the West Midlands and beyond to share progress, ideas and best practice. Three local authorities — Liverpool City Council, Oldham Council, and Birmingham City Council — kindly gave presentations explaining their approaches to implementing the new legislation. The presentations revealed that:
1. Not all authorities have necessarily seen adoption of a Social Value Policy as the main starting point. Birmingham City Council has but Oldham Council and Liverpool City Council are in the process of developing Social Value Charters which will effectively achieve the same ends. Strong commonalities are already emerging in the approaches local authorities are taking to implement the legislation:
(a) Existing corporate priorities are being used to set a framework and context for social value. The following corporate priorities are prominent in the social value frameworks of all three of the councils that gave presentations:
- Creating jobs.
- Strengthening the local economy.
- Increasing the representation of SMEs (including social enterprises and third sector providers) in the supply chain
- Targetted creation of apprenticeship and training opportunities.
(b) Social value is not being addressed in isolation but is being implemented as part of a much bigger savings and service transformation agenda, driven to a great extent by public spending cuts.
(c) All three councils here have chosen to go beyond the minimum requirements of the Act and are applying the legislation to contracts for goods as well as services, and to all contract values (not just those above the OJEU threshold of £173,934).
2. The legislation is already being implemented successfully, both in high value and low value contracts (e.g. from £20,000 to £188m in the examples we examined).
3. The evidencing and measuring of social value remains the least developed part of the process.
4. Developing systems for comparing the ‘worth’ of different kinds of social value arguably presents an even greater challenge.
6. Many commissioners still want to see specific examples of social value outcomes that can legitimately be included in contracts. While it is difficult to formulate specific examples for all types of spend and for all contract values, Oldham Council’s Social Value procurement framework (June 2013) illustrates that it is possible to include a broad range of examples across most spend categories.
More on BSSEC’s social value project: