A new report by Social Enterprise UK, co-funded by Lloyds Bank Foundation, calls for a rethink on how public bodies use social value, urging it to be placed front and centre of how local and central government works.

The report, Front and Centre – Putting Social Value at the Heart of Inclusive Growth, has found that local councils are increasingly using procurement as a way to drive higher economic growth.

The report calls on central government, local councils and other public bodies to do more to utilise social value, putting it front and centre of decision making.

Based on in-depth research across local government, the report shows a growing use of social value – making spending decisions not just on financial cost but on the economic, social and environmental impact.

82% of local councils believe that spending public money focusing on social value, rather than just focusing on the cheapest product, generates higher levels of growth. Sunderland, one of the case studies referenced in the report, was one of the fastest growing cities in the UK in 2018. Two-fifths of councils also believe that a social value approach can reduce inequalities.

With the benefits of social value and using public money strategically increasingly recognised by local councils, the research calls on more to be done to embed social value into all aspects of decision making, using it as a driver of inclusive growth. The report also asks for more support to be given to local councils to measure and report on the value that they are creating, so that there is a consistent pressure to drive better performance.

The report calls on central government to change the law so that it catches up with best practice and spreads the benefits of social value across the country. This could be done quickly by extending the Public Services (Social Value) Act – a law which was passed by the Coalition Government in 2012.

Paul Streets OBE, CEO of Lloyds Bank Foundation commented:  

“As this research recognises, there are countless opportunities for greater use of social value to drive growth and strengthen local communities. We know that small and local charities in particular deliver high levels of social value for individuals, the economy and communities and with budgets stretched and demands high, it is critical that government recognise the full value of investing in these charities. It’s promising to see the importance of social value gaining momentum at a local level but much more needs to be done by government at all levels and with leadership from the top to fully grasp the opportunities that social value offers – we hope this research will help encourage and catalyse this to happen.”

To download Front and Centre – Putting Social Value at the Heart of Inclusive Growth visit www.socialenterprise.org.uk.

For more information, please contact Alessia Terranova on aterranova@lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk or 0207 348 4619.

About the report

The report, published by Social Enterprise UK with the support of the Cordant Group, Engie, Power to Change and the Lloyds Bank Foundation, is based on in-depth surveys and interviews with council leaders, chief executives, procurement officers and civil servants, looking at how social value is being embedded and used by both central and local government. In total 180 respondents from across local government responded to the survey. The report also features three detailed case studies looking at how social value is being used in Sunderland, Hackney and Suffolk.

It was written by Dr Claire Mansfield, Director of Research at Social Enterprise UK with Nancy Towers and Ross Phillips.

About Social Enterprise UK

Together with their members, Social Enterprise UK is the voice for social enterprise in the UK.They build markets, undertake research, provide information and tools, share knowledge, raise awareness and campaign to create a business environment where social enterprises thrive.  Members range from local grass-roots organisations to multi-million-pound businesses.