Our Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, recently revealed that she was shortly to receive advice from civil servants on the much awaited second Social Value Act review. Of course, civil servants advise and Ministers decide, so we will have to wait and see, probably in the second half of November. Chris White, the former MP who wrote the Social Value Act, will shortly be publishing a review of the Act’s progress to date.
In the meantime, if Government wants some ideas for how public sector procurement and social value can be integrated, they could do worse than take inspiration from Canada.
Also, some members may find ISO 20400:2017 of interest. It provides guidance to organisations on integrating sustainability within procurement, including social considerations. Significantly, this has been developed independently of government – evidence that the private sector is beginning to sit up and take notice of socially minded procurement.
However, for public affairs, the autumn is dominated by the party conferences. We held events at Labour, Conservative and the Cooperative Party conference.
Labour’s conference: Oh Jeremy Corbyn
Tinsel-decked Jeremy Corbyn light-up shrines were this year’s must-have accessory for delegates to the Labour Party Conference. Thankfully they didn’t make an appearance at our own fringe event, which we once again held in partnership with the Co-op Party, and at which panellists discussed local sustainable economic growth.
Meanwhile, Labour published a document looking at Alternative Models of Ownership – which is a bit hit and miss, but demonstrates that they are interested in alternatives to the tired nationalisation vs. privatisation debate. Pleasingly, and encouraged by Peter’s persuasive powers, the Deputy Leader and shadow Secretary of State, Tom Watson MP name checked the movement in his speech “social enterprises: community-focused, people-oriented companies, that have thrived since the recession and will be vital to unlocking the future”. More widely, there was much more talk about social enterprise in fringe meetings and events than usual.
For the losing party, post-General Election conferences are generally subdued affairs. This one felt more like a celebration. Yet while Labour won just over 30 seats at the last election, they need to win another 60 to form a Government, requiring a further 2% swing. So, the electoral maths still presents a hurdle for Labour, but there are an awful lot of optimistic Labour Party members.
Conservative conference: cough drops and capitalism rebooted
There has been far too much focus on that speech. As is invariably the case with Conservative conferences, the interesting elements were off camera. Putting Brexit aside, there appears to be a battle for ideas within the Conservative Party about how best to react to Jeremy Corbyn’s surge. Some prescribe brining even greater freedom to markets. Others like George Freeman MP, Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board, recognise that capitalism in its current form isn’t working. He spoke about the role social enterprise has to play in rebooting capitalism; the outline of his argument can be found in his article, a Capitalism worth fighting for. You can listen to his full speech at the bottom of this blog.
For winning parties, post-General Elections are generally celebrations. This one felt more than a little subdued. Yet for all the gloom it was not defeatist. They think they understand the reasons they lost seats, are realistic about their difficulties (notably a small membership) and a hope that despite Labour’s surge they can still win the next election.
Cooperative Conference: happy 100th birthday
The Cooperative Party is a sister Party to Labour, and there are around 30 Labour and Cooperative MPs who advocate for cooperative and social economy solutions within the Labour Party. Labour’s manifesto contained a pledge to double the size of the cooperative movement; we are keen to ensure that this pledge includes social enterprises as well just cooperatives. Our fringe, focusing on tax, was aimed at broadening the debate, and included speeches from Oxfam’s Erinch Sahan and the Coop Group’s Lisa O’Hare.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Enterprise
The General Election seems so long ago, but as we gained and lost various MPs, this meant reconstituting the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Enterprise. Losing Chris White, author of the Social Value Act, at the General Election was a blow – but we are delighted that Alex Sobel MP was elected Chair of the APPG. He will be a familiar face to many social entrepreneurs having run Social Enterprise Yorkshire and the Humber. For more information about the APPG visit the Group’s page.
Social investment and Parliamentary questions
Labour’s newest Treasury frontbencher Anneliese Dodds has been asking some probing questions about Social Investment Tax Relief in the House of Commons. The issues she has raised hark back to changes to the relief announced last year but were delayed due to the election in the spring, causing some confusion -not least it seems within those looking at Advanced Assurance- about whether the announced changes were implemented before legislation had been passed. It’s also worth reading this interesting debate on SITR which took place in the Commons on 17 October.
Speeches from our conference events
SEUK’s political work is supported by The Co-operative Energy, CAN, Fusion 21, and First Ark Group