Social value: the best of intentions could be thwarted by EU procurement rules

Further to these posts on our work around social value and the Public Services Social Value Act, we were surprised the other day to see Third Sector Online carrying an article suggesting that EU procurement laws might mean that contracts below the EU threshold would be exempt from the requirements of the Act.

Apparently, a Cabinet Office spokesperson has suggested that only central government and NHS contracts worth more than £113,057 and local authority contracts worth more than £173,934 — the two EU thfresholds concerned — would be subject to the new social value legislation.

If this were the case then many  would view the new legislation as fatally flawed in its implementation.  This is certainly the view we would take in Birmingham, where there is every indication that Birmingham City Council will want to use the legislation to the fullest extent possible.

Exempting contracts below the EU thresholds would defy the very spirit of the Act. I seem to remember hearing, for instance, that for a local authority like BCC the majority of individual contract spend falls below the EU threshold — and arguably it is here, in the purchasing of catering, room hire, lower value service delivery contracts and a host of other activities and provisions that social enterprises and third sector providers can compete for business and add huge social value while doing so.

We shall be watching this development closely — and we hope that SEUK, which does have the ear of ministers, is chasing this up to seek clarification.

There was also an interesting Guardian-sponsored round table debate on social value — you can read about that here.


  1. Simon Lee Reply

    Given the potential importance of the legislation, and the fact that it has gained cross-party support along the way, we hope that Cabinet Office will issue guidance to maximise the impact of it.

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