Bus Services Bill [HL] - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 4th July 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 7:00 pm, 4th July 2016

My Lords, Amendments 58A and 99ZA call upon commissioners of bus services under franchise, and those developing enhanced partnership schemes, to apply the principles of the social value Act 2012 in specifying the service required.

The social value Act, brought in by this Government, recognises that many public services can have a wider role than a simple cost-benefit analysis would identify. It requires those procuring services to consider the economic, social and environmental benefits of each bid. It allows local authorities to think about public services in a more coherent way with wider benefits and encourages those bidding for contracts to be more imaginative about the community benefits their service could bring. Often this can result in better-designed services, with other benefits and efficiencies.

In the case of bus services, it could include, for example, a commitment to train and employ a number of long-term unemployed people to work on a contract. It could include a number of apprenticeships and work experience places for young people. It could include a commitment to support an existing community bus service—perhaps with some shared facilities. It could include an environmental plan with targets for green energy and reduced CO2.

These are just examples, but the point of social value is to encourage providers to commit to their own added-value measures without costing any more money. It is essentially supplier neutral, in that it can apply to all operators, whether commercial, social enterprise or municipal. It allows local authorities to be as specific as they choose—either specifying the expected wider benefits at the outset of the bidding scheme or encouraging bids to offer up more creative service solutions at a later stage of the process.

Implementing the social value Act would appear to be an excellent tool for achieving many of the community benefits which we have been seeking in other amendments to the Bill so far. I am sure the Minister is aware that the operation of the social value Act was reviewed last year by the noble Lord, Lord Young. He concluded that, where it was used effectively, it resulted in commissioners being much more innovative and delivering much more responsive public services. However, the noble Lord also concluded that the opportunities and advantages were simply not widely enough understood and therefore take-up of the model was low.

This is the Minister’s opportunity to put this matter right by embracing this model as it applies to bus services in the future and putting social value at the heart of the Bill. I beg to move.