As of January next year, the Public Services (Social Value) Act comes into force and it obliges public bodies to consider the social value of their procurement decisions.
For many in the social enterprise world, this has been taken as something to be celebrated, perhaps a second class ticket on the gravy train.
Inside public service organisations however there are powerful commercial interests, as I’m all to aware from prior experience in traditional business. Consultancy firms like Atos, PWC and Deloitte do very nicely out of government contracts and this may explain why they’re so keen to promote their own social credentials. Some are effectively in charge of entire departments and from experience I know they don’t like sharing the space with other suppliers.
Also, in many cases there’s considerable representation from members of Freemason lodges. Here for example, one I’ve written to on the matter of social enterprise exclusion from a broadband task group. Under the current form of local democracy, he may simply stonewall such questions.
South West Internet CIC were not best pleased that RDPE funding they’d hoped would fuel their expansion plans, had been taken by Devon and the Forest of Dean for a non-infrastucture initiative – the one I’d been first invited to and then excluded from.
Interestingly when we examine the declared interests of those involved, we see one councillor was a member of SWRDA, who’d told me back in 2004 that they’d get back to me on our community owned broadband proposal, if it met with their own plans. The very existence of SWICIC and its partnership with other councils indicates selective support of social enterprise.
We were also to see the case of a healthcare CIC which had never traded, yet acquired public funding of around £200,000 including council tax funds, to benefit of only one person outside the community, a consultant and former general manager for Atos Healthcare, a role he no longer acknowledges in promotion.
In more recent times, we’ve seen another CIC come out of nowhere and almost become healthcare provider for the entire county. To do this requires a substantial financial guarantee. Where did it come from?
At a public meeting I asked representatives of Gloucester Healthcare CIC whether they planned to procure from other social enterprises. I was told that they’d look favourably on other CICs. So social value is going to be selective.
Who will defend the interests of those who defend community primacy? Certainly not politicians who have demonstrated their ambivalence, not from social enterprise support agencies whose responses have included everything from ‘”you’re beyond our current focus” to “There’s some bad stuff about you on the internet”.
We buy into this with subscriptions and taxation to be locked our and have our script read back to us
It gets worse when we take things international. Here for example, a disregarded application to partner the British Council describing our prominent work on developing social enterprise in Ukraine. Here they are doing their own thing with the usual suspects and so uncomfortable about their definition of social enterprise, that they translate it from English into Ukrainian.
What price can be put on giving children a loving family home?
“Economics, and indeed human civilization, can only be measured and calibrated in terms of human beings. Everything in economics has to be adjusted for people, first, and abandoning the illusory numerical analyses that inevitably put numbers ahead of people, capitalism ahead of democracy, and degradation ahead of compassion.”