Visit from Czech Government officials exploring social value

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This week Julian Blake, partner  at Bates Wells Braithwaite and I jointly hosted a meeting with officials from the Czech Government who were visiting London to learn about the way social value is being incorporated into commissioning here in the UK.

The group, from the Czech Ministries of Labour and Agriculture have been working for the last three years with “E3M Bold Commissioner” Sarah Ireland and her colleagues at Croydon Council, to learn about Croydon’s experience of building social value into the way commissioning takes place in the borough. The Czech group’s aim is to develop an approach that can really account for social considerations in the way services are procured, rather a safe, “tick-box” approach really just linked to price. The group included members of a cross government unit based in their ministry of Labour and a team from the Agriculture ministry, who are exploring the potential of social value procurement in relation to the management of the Czech Republic’s forests and rivers.

The issue for them is they have clear procurement laws, with lots of penalties for getting things wrong and a system that allows costly, delay provoking challenges, but no practical support and guidance for commissioners in how to move things forward. For Czech’s the UK experience is really helpful. Julian gave a legal perspective of what is possible here and how things have moved forward considerably over the past few years.

We might be frustrated with the pace by which social enterprises are recognised and social value is incorporated into public procurement practices in the UK, but the reality is we are making good progress, especially at the local level with local authorities like Croydon leading the way. It is great to see other countries looking to apply the enhanced social focus of the 2015 EU Procurement Directive.

For more information see Croydon’s social value toolkit https://www.croydon.gov.uk/sites/default/files/articles/downloads/socialvalue.pdf

and the E3M Publication “ The Art of the Possible in Public Procurement” http://e3m.org.uk/the-art-of-the-possible-in-public-procurement/

The Czech Labour Ministry https://www.mpsv.cz/en/