In this article Guy Battle, CEO at Social Value Portal, evaluates the future of social value with a reference to Brexit

There is no doubt that the Social Value Act is transforming the relationship between the public and private sectors and that many public buying organisations are now at last grasping the opportunity and embedding social value into all of their tenders. For those leading the way, the social dividends they are generating for the communities they represent are making a real difference and go well beyond expectations such as Star Procurement who in the first 6 months or working with Social Value Portal have managed 99 tenders and have unlocked over +25% in social value equivalent to an additional £13.9 million for communities.

And so it is clear that some organisations are making great strides but where are we heading and what could the future look like if we all pull together?

Let’s imagine it’s 2025 and Brexit is sorted…

Believe it or not but the news is no longer dominated by Brexit and our political focus has shifted back to a more domestic focus. The Parties have followed through on their promises to spend more on our public sector and are also investing into new infrastructure especially across the north of England. More decision-making powers and budgets have been devolved to the regions but money is still not growing on trees and there remains a keen sense of needing to maximise the value of every public pound spent.

Interestingly, the Social Value Act, despite its lack of obligation remains as first written, except for one small but very important change in wording. The word ‘consider’ social value has now been changed to ‘account for’ social value. This has had a dramatic effect on both the local and central government as they are now required to be more transparent about their spending and particularly about how they are generating social value.

The National Themes Outcomes and Measures (TOMs) have become the key reporting framework adopted by central and local government as well as the private sector. They remain open source and are being managed by a not-for-profit organisation. They have also now been taken up internationally.

What else has happened?

The (Social Value) Charter Movement has emerged – Communities across the country have been funded to create their own ‘place-based’ Community Social Value Charters. This is a movement that was started in 2018 by Legal and General Homes on one of their new developments in Crowthorne and has now been taken up by communities around the UK. The Community Charter uses the National TOMs as a starting point and encourages local communities to add additional detail that make the TOMs place specific and relevant to their community including a description about the challenges of the area as well as offering solutions about how these challenges could be solved. The Charter Movement, as it has now been called, works across sectors and bridges the gap between community and new development.

Communities are represented on Procurement Boards – Social Value is now embedded across all council buying and the minimum additional value being delivered is +25% with some organisations offering significantly more. What’s interesting is that during evaluation of large contracts some councils have invited a representative from the community to take part in the preparation of the ITT, the evaluation and selection process. This representative has of course benefitted from training and their services are for.

Social Value is now a fundamental part of the planning process – Islington was one of the first councils to integrate social value into the planning process and now require all major developments to submit a Social Value Self-Assessment as part of the planning submission. This was broadly welcomed by the development community and over the past 4 years many other councils and planning authorities have adopted a similar strategy as a means of helping the planning committee better understand the broader (social) value created by developments. It is important to note that the added value being unlocked is not being adopted as an alternative to key planning requirements such as affordable homes or Section 106.

Traditional silos are falling away and borders are breaking down – Cross Sector Collaboration has become the new buzz word as local authorities, the health sector, universities and even central government are working together to unlock more value by collaborating more closely with civil society and the private sector. Some local authorities have banded together to redefine ‘local’ beyond the traditional council borders to include regional opportunities for areas that areas that are most deprived. This is allowing Business to take a long-term view and invest in solutions that bring about real and positive change to communities.

Radical Transparency is the new normal – The first social value league table was released in 2021 showing how local and central government were delivering on the updated Act. The league table maps the ‘social dividend’ indicating the additional value created for every public pound being spent. The public sector league table is mirrored by an equivalent private sector data base that shows how business are performing including those that are consistently failing to meet the commitments made at tender – this is leading to less failures and more realistic social value offers.

We now know what good looks like – As transparency of reporting increases, we are seeing a dramatic uptick in performance, sharing of good practice and at last both public and private sectors are beginning to understand what good looks like.

And back again…

Back to 2019 and the good news is that seeds of this successes can already be seen and much of the groundwork is being put in place. Yes, we have far to travel but surely a journey worth taking if it helps our communities, flourish and grow.

SVP supported the delivery of over £28 million in additional social value at 245 Hammersmith Road, a development by Legal and General


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