While the Social Value Act is already delivering benefits since it was formalised in 2013, there is still further scope for contractors to extend this positive impact even further

Rob Byrnes BW 2018

The idea behind the Social Value act is both simple and compelling. It ultimately encourages contractors delivering works for commissioning authorities to deliver a range of additional outcomes as part of their contract which benefit society. In turn, this secures the best value from the public money being spent.

Social outcomes can range from training and employing the long-term unemployed and people with convictions, to boosting local small, medium and micro businesses, reducing air pollution and improving green spaces in the local area. For Balfour Beatty, it’s about creating a lasting legacy for the communities we serve as a result of the construction and improvement works we undertake.

It’s about creating a lasting legacy for the communities we serve as a result of the works we undertake

While the Act is already delivering significant benefits since it was formalised in 2013, there is still further scope for commissioners and contractors to extend this positive impact even further. For example, while the Act should mark a welcome move away from lowest price bidding, many commissioning authorities continue to concentrate on the lowest price as the deciding factor in the tender process, missing the opportunity to look at the bigger picture and the positive outcomes that could be achieved.

To secure the maximum return on investment commissioning authorities should increase the weighting they give social value. This would encourage those bidding for contracts to really think outside the box in terms of how to deliver outcomes which will have the biggest impact.

In order to achieve the most extensive benefits available through social value initiatives, local authorities must set ambitious targets and a clear vision as early in the project as possible. The construction industry must strive to pitch its best ideas, using local knowledge to ensure proposals are both impactful and achievable.

Discussing the importance of social value and how it can be achieved in initial conversations between customer and contractor provides the opportunity to incorporate social value initiatives from the very beginning; ensuring clear deliverables are present at every stage of the contract or project lifecycle. This approach offers the best chance of securing social, economic and environmental benefits while building stronger, more resilient communities.

Social value in action

Skills development for people in custody

An example of this activity takes place through the Scape National Civil Engineering and Infrastructure framework where we are working with the Scottish Prison Service to provide development opportunities to people with convictions. By developing their skills while in custody, this can support individuals in securing employment once released and help to break the cycle of reoffending.

Most recently, we worked collaboratively with Perth and Kinross Council, in partnership with HMP Castle Huntly Open Prison and HMP Perth to provide work experience placements for people with convictions. The placements saw a group of individuals build a woodland footpath and construct drainage systems around Perth Crematorium in support of the ongoing £35.4 million A9/A85 Perth Transport Futures Project. On completion, all successful participants were presented with a Certificate of Work Experience, to support future job applications.

Work opportunities for the local community

Balfour Beatty is currently delivering the Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) project, which is valued at £287 million and is a cornerstone of the University of Manchester’s 10-year campus masterplan.

Through a partnership with the University of Manchester’s Construction Academy, which operates through the university’s own employment and training centre, The Works, the project is committed to ensuring that Greater Manchester residents benefit from the skills development and employment opportunities the expansion of the campus will provide. By raising skill levels and creating sustainable job opportunities in this way, local communities directly benefit from the project whilst also contributing to a strong regional and national economy.