Thursday, 17 May 2012

Public Services Social Value Act in action

Yesterday I spoke at the National Housing Federation’s conference on issues affecting human resources in housing and though I was doing the graveyard shift after lunch, we ended up having a really interesting discussion.

As regular readers will know, I was a passionate supporter of the Public Services Social Value Act that has now been passed, but yesterday was one of the first times I saw it being debated as something that required action. The good news is that the NHF was fully up to speed with the need to respond to the Act; the bad news is it objected to being termed 'public services' under the legislation, which is no doubt colouring its response.

This discussion was fascinating to me and sadly popped up at the end of the session so we did not have time to fully expand on it. But for me the issue is clear: government retains the right to legislate to require those delivering public services to comply with such things as the demonstration of enhanced social value, but it needs to be clear in its own mind that spun-out services like housing associations are delivering public services but are not in themselves the public sector and that clarity should be carefully worded in any subsequent legislation.

For the Transition Institute this will be key ground. We need to speed up the transition to a time and space where government feels comfortable with directing and regulating public service delivery without having to revert to the group think that everything that happens in public service delivery is in fact the public sector.

I have since re-examined the Act and I think the confusion comes where the "regulations" are deemed to apply to the "relevant authority", which has been widly interpreted as government. We need everyone on our side to make sure the Act gets a fair run so the Transition Institute will be seeking clarity on this as, no doubt, will the NHF.

Another plea: Please sponsor my son Sam Ogden-Newton, he is working so hard to be ready for this epic ride to Paris, we even had his hearing, which was never good, checked out today to make sure he can hear those French cars coming up behind him. Street Child is a wonderful charity and Sam is a gutsy kid who needs your support, so follow this link to feel wonderful about yourself.


  1. In my opinion the Act is clear enough in its own title, it refers to “Public services” not "Public sector". It is true that such term as “relevant authority” can be controversial but I believe this is because “contracting authority” is the term used in EU procurement legislation so they stick to it. As explained by Ralf Grahn (follow link below):

    "‘Contracting authorities’ means the State, regional or local authorities, bodies governed by public law, associations formed by one or several of such authorities or one or several of such bodies governed by public law.

    A ‘body governed by public law’ means any body:

    (a) established for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest, not having an industrial or commercial character;

    (b) having legal personality; and

    (c) financed, for the most part, by the State, regional or local authorities, or other bodies governed by public law; or subject to management supervision by those bodies; or having an administrative, managerial or supervisory board, more than half of whose members are appointed by the State, regional or local authorities, or by other bodies governed by public law."

  2. Thanks Ana, as ever a detailed and considered response. I would say that even though it might seem clear enough from Government's point of view the reality is that outsourced organisations are still struggling to assert their identity, illustrated by the understandable but as you say ambiguous term "contracting authority". This is not a good thing because until Government is clear about the difference it will be impossible to distinguish between those for whom social value is a priority and those for whom profit is the only significant driver.

  3. ‘Contracting authorities’ means hawaii, localized or nearby authorities, systems controlled by general public law, interactions shaped simply by one or several of such government bodies or one or perhaps several of this kind of physiques controlled by community legislation.
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