Social value will be part of 7th May 2015 election manifestos for all parties, says Hazel Blears MP


AnswerTime® — a new WebTV format developed by InformationDaily.TV — invited Hazel Blears MP, Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Jenni Inglis, Phil Loach, Guy Battle and an audience of experts to discuss delivery and measurement of Social Value.

Tony Clabby and I from BSSEC, Melanie Mills from SEWM and about twenty-five other invited guests were in the audience for this — the first of a series of panel discussions on key policy issues being filmed for webcast by Boilerhouse Media.

 Watch the video.

Hazel Blears MP (Labour, Salford and Eccles) was one of the architects of the Social Value Act, alongside the promoter of the original Private Member’s Bill, Chris White MP (Conservative, Warwick & Leamington) and she is now part of the cross-party team  reviewing the implementation the new law, under the chairmanship of Lord Young.

“Social value is a win-win for everyone” said Blears in an upbeat assessment of the law. “It has massive potential to ensure that better value-for-money services are provided to improve life for our communities and to boost responsible local firms, social enterprises and charities by helping them to secure work and enhance their reputation.”

Audience views were in some cases more sceptical. Many speakers highlighted the problems that trying to evidence and measure social value poses.

Phil Loach, the chief fire officer for the West Midlands, highlighted public spending cuts (5:30). Prevention work and risk management have reduced incidents requiring fire service call-out in the WM by around 40%. But rather than being rewarded for this, “the government thinks we therefore need 40% fewer firefighters,” he explained. At one point — footage that didn’t make the final cut — he went on to make the point that the fire service knows it “does” social value, but struggles to articulate it.

That will be a view that resonates with many.

Guy Battle noted that many public authorities — and private businesses wanting to do public sector business too — are desperate for guidance.

Hazel Blears agreed strongly, saying that she hoped the present review process would result inn some light-touch practical guidance — something government has so far help off from issuing.

She reinforced this point saying that the aim now was to ensure that social value featured in all the 2015 general election manifestos. “Some people don’t believe that political manifestos are important, but I know they are,” she said. “I want to see half a page on social value, social enterprise and social investment in each of the manifestos — because when a new government comes in, the civil servants look at the manifestos and say, ‘This is the programme we’ve got to deliver in the next five years.'”

At the very least, events like this help stimulate debate — but in this case, it could also inform the current review process, and that’s a good thing.

Full disclosure: my own contribution ended up on the cutting room floor. That’s the nature of TV, but one can’t help but take it personally…

A big thank you to all the people at Boilerhouse Media who made this happen.

Watch the video.

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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