The Social Value Act is being misused by some councils to get charities to subsidise public contracts, an audience of charity professionals heard last week.
Kathy Evans, chief executive of Children England, said that local authorities were effectively operating a “pay to play” system which categorised social value as things such using reserves, offering discounts for ‘prompt payment’ and bringing social investment, which charities could offer to subsidise their delivery of statutory contracts.
Evans, was speaking at annual conference of Navca, the local infrastructure body, in Sheffield, and was speaking in response to several contributions which highlighted the growing effectiveness of social value as a positive tool for procurement.
She said many councils were using social value well, but that there were others which were not.
Speaking afterwards to Civil Society News, she said that “unfortunately social value had become a euphemism in some quarters for cut price services” and that several members had raised it with her.
“At the moment, though, we don’t know how widespread it is,” she said.
She also said that charities should be encouraged to report examples of bad procurement to the Public Procurement Review Service - the Cabinet Office “mystery shopper” programme - which can investigate and challenge poor procurement while it is still ongoing.
She said the mystery shopper scheme had previously succeeded in intervening during live procurement exercises and forcing councils to change the terms on which they engaged.
Evans also suggested that charities seek the support of Claire Dove, the crown representative for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, whose work also forms part of the Cabinet Office drive to improve government procurement from the sector, and whose advisory board Evans sits on.