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3 September 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The government should make sure that infrastructure projects consider economic, social and environmental well-being, according to former Labour minister Hazel Blears.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday during a debate on the social economy, Blears said the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 should be extended “from services to goods and infrastructure”.
The Act currently covers services, but Blears explained that a lot of future spend will be on infrastructure projects, such as High Speed 2 and, potentially, a new airport. She said that the ask is “perhaps slightly more radical, but I believe it is essential”.
She said: “The big spend in the next 15 to 20 years will not be on revenue, because we all know that money is tight; the big spend will be on big infrastructure projects, such as High Speed 2 and a new airport. It is about the big rail developments and all those big infrastructure projects.
“If we can include social value clauses about local labour, using local supply chains and having a social impact in all those big infrastructure projects, imagine the prize that awaits. Now that Europe says that we can do it, we should extend social value legislation to include infrastructure and goods.”
Blears also reiterated calls for “consistent principles and grounds for the measurement of value”.
Cabinet Office minister for civil society Brooks Newmark said: “I take on board [Blears’] point about the importance of having measurables and consistency. Thinking about how to extend the social economy to infrastructure is a great idea.
“Chi Onwurah (Cabinet Office shadow minister) was absolutely right to say that, with £86 billion of public procurement, there is much scope for social enterprises to take advantage of what is out there. As the new minister, I hope that I can try to facilitate that.”