Posted 2nd February 2018
Meeting the needs of their community is the driving force behind a council’s services, making it essential that they create as much social, economic and environmental value as possible. With the Social Value Act (2012) reinforcing this fundamental need, it is increasingly important for local authorities to engage with social value. So why is there such a significant difference in the level of social value engagement between local councils throughout the North West?
During my time as a Marketing and Communications intern at Social Value UK, I was tasked with leading a project on Local Government engagement with social value, particularly focusing on the landscape throughout the North West. Before looking at local governments specifically, I conducted thorough research on all things social value, beginning with the Public Services (Social Value) Act (2012). The Social Value Act calls for all public authorities to have regard to the implications of public services contracts on social, economic and environmental well-being. While this is a great step in boosting social value engagement, it means that the act only requires local authorities to think about social value, meaning that embedding social value into their operations is not a compulsory requirement. As a result, the policy has not enforced fundamental change in the way that councils operate.
Evidence of this became apparent in the initial stages of my research, as the significant difference in the level of social value engagement between councils was revealed. I found that some councils had gone to great lengths to embed social value into their operations. For instance, Salford City Council have the ultimate aim of making Salford a ‘Social Value City’, whereby the council and its partners aim to maximise the benefit from all money invested in the city. Other ways that North West councils have effectively engaged with social value is through the production of social value toolkits, policies, strategies, framework and reports, all created with the aim of increasing the social value created by that council. What I was surprised to learn however, is that some local authorities have minimal, if any, engagement with social value, suggesting that the Social Value Act is not enforcing fundamental change in Local Government engagement with social value.
With community needs at the heart of council services, Local Government engagement with social value is essential, and so much more can be done to achieve this. So, where does Social Value UK come into all of this? SVUK have worked with many local councils throughout the UK to increase the accounting, managing and maximising of their social value, particularly in procurement and commissioning. They provide a wide range of services and resources covering all levels of experience, including training specifically looking at Social Value in Procurement, and online resources dedicated to Social Value in Commissioning. By working with Social Value UK and becoming a member, you gain access to a range of benefits and discounts such as invitations to regional and sector specific working groups, guidance, mentoring, assurance and accreditation support, guidance and discounts on sector specific tools, including training and the Self Assessment Tool (SAT), and much more. Having witnessed first-hand the hard work and passion of SVUK employees, who work tirelessly to increase equality, improve wellbeing and increase environmental sustainability, I know that working with SVUK is an incredibly rewarding experience, it certainly has been for me.