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In January 2013, assessments of the social value of public services became officially enforced via the Public Services (Social Value) Act (2012). For the first time, public sector commissioners are legally required to consider the wider social, economic and environmental benefits of services in the procurement process. Since then social value has become a key focus for the government’s new Commissioning Academy and a core debate for the cross-government Public Service Transformation Network.

In these tight economic times, the Social Value Act appears to offer an alternative approach to public sector commissioning:in line with the ‘best value’ duty on local authorities, the Act promotes a move away from narrow concerns with cost-efficiency towards achieving maximum value. It is a key dimension to outcomes-based commissioning, as the public sector attempts to commission what is important to service users and communities. It is even an antidote to the fragmenting and divisive effects of austerity politics, signifying what is to be valued collectively in the public realm...

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