Birmingham pushes on ahead on social value

A recent survey of over 300 local government officers by the Guardian revealed that almost half (48%) “hadn’t heard” of the Public Service (Social Value) Act 2012, despite the new legislation coming fully into force this month. (See these earlier posts on social value.)

Thankfully,  this lack of awareness is not the case in Birmingham.

On Tuesday 22nd January, as part of our work on social value funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, we organised a major event on social value for Birmingham City Council officers and elected members. In all 39 people attended — a 100% attendance rate, despite the appalling weather. This tells you something about Birmingham’s commitment to social value and to making the new legislation a practical reality that can deliver for Birmingham’s communities.

Councillors Stewart Stacey and John Cotton — respectively Cabinet Members for commissioning and contracting, and for social cohesion and equality — were key note speakers and were joined by a number of senior officers.

It is not possible in the confines of this blog post to give a full impression of the event but you can view the main presentations below and get a feel for the discussion and the issues involved.

BSSEC speakers kicked-off with a very brief introduction to the project and the concept of social value. View presentation 1.

Councillor John Cotton and Jackie Mould then spoke about social value and its relation to other key policy drivers in Birmingham, especially equality, inclusion and cohesion. This very much reflected the ‘social inclusion process’ that Birmingham embarked on late last year and begins to give a very good steer about what the main ‘headline’ social value outcomes for Birmingham should be. View presentation 2.

Much work will need to be done in order to translate these headline aims into specific, measurable and verifiable social value outcomes — which is what the new legislation requires if they are to be legitimately included in commissioning and contracts.

Councillor Stewart Stacey and Nigel Kletz then spoke about some of the key initiatives already happening in Birmingham that have implications for social value. Central to these are the Living Wage campaign and the Birmingham Charter for Business Social Responsibility. View presentation 3.

The Commissioning Policy for Jobs & Skills also plays a part here and it is worth emphasising that Birmingham City Council was the first authority in the country to apply this policy to construction and non-construction contracts.

Finally, Gayle Monk from Anthony Collins Solicitors spoke about some of the key legal issues that practical application of the legislation is likely to throw up. View presentation 4.

The commitment and buy-in from Birmingham City Council that this event demonstrated cannot be overstated. Later this year we will also be working directly with social enterprises to help them rise to the challenge of evidencing social value.

The likely next step, however, is that we will work with key Birmingham City Council officers to begin  development of the authority’s social value policy. This is crucial because much of the rest of the implementation process will eventually flow from this.

BSSEC would like to thank everyone who attended the event and everyone who helped make it such a success.

UPDATE 04/02/13: Please note that the post-event report is now available — click here.




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