What does the Social Value Act mean to a construction contractor?

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The Social Value Act became live in January 2013 and quite possibly could be the difference between winning work and missing out. We all know that tenders are getting tighter and most companies are submitting the lowest price (I think we know that some don’t even have that luxury), so there can be very little to differentiate between tenders. We have historically spoken about how equality can help bump you up a couple of percentage points – well basically, social value can do the same.

The authority must consider—
(a)how what is proposed to be procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the relevant area, and
(b)how, in conducting the process of procurement, it might act with a view to securing that improvement.”

That is why you should carry on reading.  But what in the blazes is it exactly? – Besides another very public sector sounding phrase? It’s the idea that if money comes out of the public purse there is a duty incumbent upon those spending it to show that it has been spent well and that it has had a significant impact on the community. For the first time the public sector must consider social value ahead of procurement. Of course, like any government legislation the politics behind it can be debated – some might argue that it is a good idea and will help get to the heart of how spending affects communities at a real level. Conversely, others might say that it is a propaganda tool to help the government dazzle us with numbers before the next election.  To us in construction though, we can argue the finer points over a pint – for now let’s see it as a tool to help us win more work.

If you have gotten this far down the page you are probably asking yourself how you are supposed to measure social value – it doesn’t seem like a very tangible output and where to start could seem like a bit of a mystery.  Don’t worry you’re not the only ones thinking this – far from it.  You sit with the majority, including many public sector clients who are hoping that their supply chains will be able to give them some answers. The good news is that whilst you might be the majority, you are not the first people to try and get your heads around this particular puzzle.  Not only have many come before, but they have left a lot of breadcrumbs to help you apply social value to your work and organisations. Over the past year we have worked closely with the Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) who have directed us towards a number of tools to help measure social value and taken us by the hand and walked us through how it all works. They are keen to help, and interested from a research perspective, so let us know if you want us to put you in touch with them.

If you don’t have the time to learn about social value but you do see the benefit, help may again be on hand. We are working on a project that addresses how social value is measured in the sector in a way that is comparable and meaningful. It in the design stage at the moment but we will be providing details at the end of 2014.

So, in brief, the Social Value Act

  • Can help you win tenders,
  • Puts social value before lowest cost
  • Can be done in-house using the following tools and guidance (available by email via paul@constructingequality.co.uk)
  • Can be carried out by Constructing Equality Ltd when you undertake the CITB Be Fair framework

If you want to know more, have trouble opening the links or would like us to introduce you to LJMU please feel free to get in touch