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A revolutionary bill, by Chris White MP

4 October 2010
Chris White MP

Chris White MP will present his bill on 19 November

In an increasingly competitive market, businesses are seeking to differentiate themselves from their competitors by highlighting the benefits that they provide to local communities and the good work that they do

 

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Chris White MP tells us why he has introduced a bill to parliament that could revolutionise public service commissioning by enshrining the importance of social impact – a bill that he says chimes with the values of modern-day Tories

Presenting a private member’s bill is a fantastic opportunity that many members of parliament never get.

When I was told that I had been successfully drawn in the ballot to put forward a bill, I felt a deep sense of responsibility – I have an opportunity to make a difference in my own community and communities across the country.

The concept of social enterprise has inspired me, being a fusion of private sector innovation with the dedication of the voluntary and public sectors. In delivering the products and services that people want, they already serve as a public good. However, in their commitment to their host community and by seeking to reinvest their profits into social causes in their local area, social enterprises provide extra benefits. So when thinking about the subject of my bill, I instinctively thought about how best to promote not only social enterprises themselves but the ideals that they embody.

Despite its rather prosaic title, the ‘Public services (social enterprise and social value)’ bill offers a radical way for us to shape the future of our country. Underpinning this legislation is the concept of ‘social value’, which I believe holds the key for the future of public service provision.

Social value is a simple concept. It means seeking to maximise the additional benefit that can be created by procuring or commissioning goods and services, above and beyond the benefit of merely the goods and services themselves.

For example, running a local health campaign is a benefit in itself for a community. However, by procuring leaflets and posters from a local business that hires long-term unemployed, extra benefits in the form of social value can be created by stimulating the local economy, keeping people in work, promoting social inclusion and reducing the strain on local public services.

The beauty of social value is that the same principles can work on both large and small scales. Whether it is the building of a brand new, multimillion pound school or commissioning a new care service for the elderly, social value presents a fantastic opportunity by identifying ways to maximise the benefits that can be provided for local communities.

It will vastly improve the effectiveness of public spending within the UK and in the long term will help us to deliver more for less.

In this sense, there has never been a better time to put forward this kind of bill.

Every year, the UK spends £150bn on public procurement alone (equivalent to 13 per cent of UK GDP) and this will have an increasingly important role to play in promoting sustainability in our economy.

The principles of social value have been taken up in some parts of the public sector and the private sector is also warming to the idea. In an increasingly competitive market, businesses are seeking to differentiate themselves from their competitors by highlighting the benefits that they provide to local communities and the good work that they do. This is not, therefore, a question of forcing the private sector to do something it doesn’t want to do, but rather encouraging the private sector in something it is already doing.

Importantly, social value will give social enterprises, voluntary organisations and small businesses that provide a range of extra benefits to their communities a better chance of securing a slice of the public procurement and commissioning budget.

For me, social value represents what the modern, compassionate Conservative party stands for: community, innovation and the public good. It is an understanding that public services are not ‘necessary evils’ but are, in fact, inherently good. We should do everything possible to maximise that good so that we can deliver the kind of future for the public sector that welcomes choice, provides better service and delivers improved results.

I look forward to presenting my bill on 19 November.

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