Social enterprises and charities still ‘locked out’ of government contracts despite Social Value Act

Further to this post, Chris White MP, whose private member’s bill resulted in the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 becoming law earlier in March this year, has attacked the government’s record on enabling social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups to bid for contracts in which they can also deliver additional social value.

The story is reported in full here in Third Sector Online.

White argues that the large size of government contracts continues to mean that only the biggest providers can realistically bid. And that while this might be good for economies of scale it does not necessarily produce the best outcomes — nor does it necessarily help realise social value above and beyond the service specification.

He cites two key examples. The government’s Work programme, where one-quarter of the total £3.3bn-worth went to one provider, and the UK Border Agency, which in March this year let £1.7bn in contracts for asylum seeker services, all of which were valued at over £100m, thus precluding all but the largest providers from bidding.

Interestingly, Sajid Javid, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, has said that every government department has nominated a small and medium-sized enterprises minister responsible for delivering a procurement action plan for their department and consequently about 35% of contracts awarded through the government’s contracts-finder website — about 2,000 out of 5,700 posted there — have been won by SMEs.

Now, I bet you’re thinking the same thing as me. This is the first I have heard of SME Ministers. Perhaps they are central to how the social value Act should be enacted? But are they thinking social enterprise? Are they looking for social value?


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