Social Enterprise UK publishes its new year wishlist for ministers

Britain should move towards mutual solutions in areas like social care and transport, and should make sure that Brexit brings a “fair market economy” rather than US-style free markets, says a social enterprise leader.

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, made the call in in his new year wishlist for government ministers. He says the sector makes an important contribution to the economy and deserves a place in the industrial strategy.

The list also includes ongoing issues for the movement, such as tax changes which have affected the community energy industry, and makes the case for fairer trade.

Community energy projects have been hit by changes to tariffs and tax relief
Community energy projects have been hit by changes to tariffs and tax relief

“Social enterprises employ more than a million people, and contribute over £24bn gross value added to the economy,” he said, calling on ministers in the department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) to include social enterprise in the industrial strategy. According to Mr Holbrook, social enterprise is “one of the UK’s few success stories” in recent years and he believes the movement should form part of the industrial strategy “by right”.

He also called on ministers to support community energy: “Community energy has been undermined by changes to the tariff regime and tax relief in the last few years. It’s time to have another look at how government can best support the vital, and popular, policy of community owned and produced energy.”

For ministers in the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS), Mr Holbrook called for the strengthening of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. “Government is right that third sector organisations should be used to help shape and deliver public services, but if it’s serious about improving commissioning, then – as the Centre for Social Justice and others have said – it needs to strengthen the Social Value Act,” he said.

“Government has made some important and helpful announcements in the past few weeks around bus franchising and procurement. It’s now time to tidy up the different announcements and provide some statutory clout to the raft of helpful new guidance coming out.”

He also had messages for the health and transport departments.

“Passengers seem to be increasingly taken for a ride by some of the [rail] franchises and it’s time that all the stakeholders had a say in way our railways are run,” he said, calling for a kickstart to the mutual programme with train companies.

And social enterprises in health and social care are are “innovating, improving patient outcomes and balancing the books,” he added – “exactly what the system needs for a sustainable, high-quality service in future”.

Meanwhile for the department for exiting the EU (DEXEU), Mr Holbrook called for a social Brexit with a fair market economy. “Britain seems to have rejected European style social democracy,” he said.

“I’m not entirely convinced the country wholeheartedly wants US style free markets. The government has a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the kind of economy we have.”