This blog is from Dai Powell of HCT Group – it looks at the role and importance of transport, plurality of provision and strengthening the Social Value Act.

It is getting very close to the general election and in a matter of weeks we will have a government who will wish to make their mark on society.

Society is changing, and changing rapidly. Gone are many of the old certainties – those in employment, care, service provision as well as in people’s place in society.

What constitutes work is changing, the settlement between the citizen and the state is changing and the influence of technology and new models of delivery will be challenging.

However, there are some issues which transcend the past and the future.  As a society we need to, ensure that loneliness and isolation are not a part of the future, that people of all ages are able to participate in everything that society has to offer and that no one is left behind because they cannot access employment or services, leisure or education.

We need to ensure that in an ever changing world, community cohesion is at the heart of policy, that the role of government is to both enhance opportunity and enable social mobility, giving opportunity to all.

The three key asks I would wish to see from an incoming government relate directly to the above.

1) We have a Bus Service Act which had cross party support in the last parliament, we now need to ensure the opportunities that this offers are taken up at a local level.  This means a push for change from government and an understanding that there will be different ways of delivering this change.  The Act offers the opportunity for communities to shape their mobility solutions and to shape them in a way that meets the broader needs of everyone in those communities.

To do this effectively, authorities need to take on board the value of community transport in their areas and take on board the value of any schemes that are taken forward through the powers given in the Bus Service Act.  This Act has the opportunity not only to revolutionise provision but also to enhance relationships between commercial and community transport operators.

Social enterprises need the support, encouragement, and environment to thrive…and thrive they will on a level playing field 

2) Which brings me onto my second ask. In any inclusive economy we need a plurality of provision. In addition to the old world of public and private provision, we need a strong role and voice for social enterprises – and for other impact driven organisations such as cooperatives, all able to play a key role in the growth and inclusivity of our economy.

At their best, social enterprises not only tackle many of the harder problems for government, they also do this by being sustainable businesses.  They work in every industry and sector of the economy – from child care to education, from homelessness to adult care, from the rehabilitation of offenders, to transport, to recycling…. Social enterprises need the support, encouragement and environment to thrive – and thrive they will on a level playing field with the private sector.

This plurality of provision will create a more resilient economy, which must be a goal for government, but above all it will create a more resilient society: communities that are empowered to take ownership and control of their needs and aspirations. This is something worth any government focusing on.

3) My final ask continues the theme of government intervention without spending any more money –  procurement. The government, local even more than national, spends billions of citizens’ pounds. They need to get the best value for this spend.  

To this end, we ask any incoming government to look again at the Social Value Act, which needs to be stronger and have real teeth. Enhancing the Social Value Act will enable Social Enterprises and the Private sector to compete to provide the best value for any work undertaken in our communities. Getting more from the public purse than we currently do should be paramount for everyone in local and national government; we should reach for the sky! 

An incoming government will have a lot on their plate. Nevertheless, we should not lose the opportunity to create an inclusive society, one where everyone has access to opportunity, where transport is not a barrier but an enabler of community cohesion, where we have a plural economy in which the power of social enterprise to do good is maximised and where the spend of the state creates the greatest social value.