Social value needs to be embedded into the psyche of an organisation if it is going to effect real change, the mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and former John Lewis boss has said.
Andy Street, who before becoming Conservative mayor was managing director of John Lewis for 10 years, described social value as a “necessary means of achieving something”.
“I’m a great believer that ultimately [social value] has to be embedded in the principles and it has to be in the psyche of how people think. If you just have it on the side, in a box to be ticked, in a contract, you will not really achieve what we want,” he said.
Speaking at the National Social Value Conference in Birmingham today, Street said that the approach to social value he was taking at WMCA was “a necessary means of achieving something, but the real goal is much, much more beyond that”.
“It’s actually [about achieving] inclusive growth, the type of society that we’re trying to build here in the West Midlands, and we’ll only really have achieved it when we’ve got that psychology of sharing much more into the leadership of the region overall.”
He added: “That’s what John Lewis achieved.”
Street was elected earlier this year as head of the WMCA, one of several devolved authorities created by the government.
As part of the devolution deal, WMCA was awarded £8bn in investment from central government over the next 30 years.
Combining WMCA’s spend with that of six local authorities in the region – Coventry was excluded – brings the total value of local government procurement in the West Midlands region to £3.3bn a year.
One of the main social value aims Street hopes to address through this procurement spend is local jobs and skills. “This is an acute issue, as anyone in the West Midlands knows,” he said.
“We’ve got some of the most successful economies in Britain, here in Solihull, in Sutton Coldfield, where unemployment is pretty much nil. Just a few short miles from that we’ve got some wards in Birmingham that have the highest indexes of unemployment in the country.”
One of the big ticket procurements that Street hopes to create jobs from is renewal of the Midland Metro tram fleet. The contract to renew the fleet is worth about £75m, for which Street says he wants the supplier to create 200 apprenticeships.
Street also wants to target SMEs through WMCA’s spend and leverage volunteering hours from its suppliers.
“We’ve got a number of themes, outcomes and methods in our [social value] policy. And the good news is – and this is why I’m proud of the combined authority – it has now passed its policy and is committed to use this policy in all of its procurements going forward,” he said.
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