10 questions council scrutiny can ask about social value

Posted on 23/05/2018 by Tim Gilling.

Social value matters: 10 questions council scrutiny can ask about social value.

Public services are facing a common challenge – how to spend public money in ways that meet society’s needs and deliver better outcomes for people and communities, not just for now but for future generations. Using scarce resources to deliver clear outcomes for people who use public services is at the heart of good decision-making – five years on from the Public Services (Social Value) Act, which set a legal requirement on public bodies to consider economic, environmental and social benefits when procuring services, the time is right to re-emphasise that social value needs to be viewed as a tool to facilitate discussions with partners and with communities about how to build social benefits into services as well as delivering value for money.

CfGS has worked with Social Value UK to produce a guide for overview and scrutiny committees about 10 questions they can ask to make sure that social value is at the heart of effective decision-making. Discussions about ‘value’ often focus on financial cost – but what assurance is there that wider social benefits have been considered when thinking about investing in the actions necessary to achieve outcomes? Or when decisions are made about reducing services or eligibility to access services, what assurance is there that wider social impacts have been considered? 

Effective scrutiny can help with this and social value should be embedded in to councils’ scrutiny work – not just scrutiny of councils’ own services but also scrutiny beyond organisational boundaries. Scrutiny can be part of a process to encourage change in the public sector, provoking decision-makers to reflect on the assumptions that sit behind commissioning, procurement and delivery decisions and the way outcomes and value are measured.

CfGS and Social Value UK are developing some training support for councillors and council scrutiny committees about how to use social value in their work – if you are interested in having this training delivered in your council please contact antonia.okoro@cfgs.org.uk


About the Author: Tim Gilling

Tim is a Director at the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny, leads on health and social care and oversees our work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.