Can I do a blog in 13 minutes about the recent Best Value Guidance? If so, will it be coherent? Let’s see…
CLG published new, ultra short Best Value Guidance on 2 Sept, NCVO published a useful report from their legal folks a couple of days ago. I’ve been mulling it over, in particular the Duty to consider social value.
For me, this is an important addition to the Best Value guidance, because of the possibilities it opens up within the context of Open Data, openness and Transparency (I always feel a little bit like I’m writing a Regency novel when I capitalise in the middle of sentences, but that’s possibly just my Georgette Heyer complex coming out…).
You can see a situation where greater access to open data, about not just spend, but service delivery, service quality, outcomes and so on provide a great deal more information for those interested in providing public services. And for the larger organisations, possibly predominantly private sector organisations with the R&D capacity to invest, this will provide significant advantages in terms of how you pitch your bids, what your service design is and who you partner with.
However, there is the risk, discussed at length by many commentators that the private sector providers (who we must note are by no means all evil and after world domination at the expense of communities) will force out smaller local providers, whether SME or local voluntary sector or social enterprise sector organisations. This would be bad for a number of reasons, local jobs, community cohesion, building big society, Tescoisation of public services etc etc.
In this situation, the commissioning context becomes critical and the Duty to consider social value especially important. It will be important for all partners in local areas to have a proper discussion and agreement about what they consider social value. To agree how they will measure it, and how these definitions and (hopefully) commitment to social value will be reflected in the everyday practice of commissioners, procurement officers and strategic staff across local government. There is value in this, monetary as well as social, for local authorities, as well as the more obvious benefits for SMEs and VCS providers, and ultimately, the community.