Duncan Thorp explains why social enterprises share the same values as local authority employees and what this means for the uplcoming election
On 4 May voters will go to the polls for Scotland's local authority elections. After all the elections and referedums of the last few years, it isn't surprising that many are suffering from election fatigue, but voting in this one is vital for public services and the quality of life in our streets and neighbourhoods.
Though I believe local authorities (and equally local communities) should be given more powers, many people don’t realise how much influence councils already have over our daily lives. Their powers extend to housing, schools, social work, economic development, arts and sport, waste and recycling, street lighting, licensing for taxis and pubs, transport and more.
Councils and other local bodies are often the first point of contact for social enterprises, whether that’s as customers, for business support, funding, influencing policies or getting access to decision-making and contracts. But barriers still exist in many areas.http://www.socialenterprisescotland.org.uk/files/cf21b8c9b6.pdf
Social Enterprise Scotland recently conducted an open consultation open to any social enterprise. The responses helped mould our manifesto, In Every Corner of Scotland.
The manifesto emphasises that social entrepreneurs share the same values as public sector employees. In this spirit we should work together to empower individuals, drive public service change, help the most excluded, improve the environment and strengthen local democracy.
We want to be clear that social enterprise is about jobs and wealth creation, potential cost savings to local authority budgets and stopping the leakage of local money going to shareholder profits many miles away. We’re also about the delivery of value added public services and greater flexibility, innovation and efficiency.
The manifesto gets straight to the point and is concise and achievable. We believe that the actions within it would greatly benefit local communities, social enterprises and local authorities.
Specifically the manifesto calls for such things as a local social enterprise strategy in every area. Increasing numbers of local areas now have Social Enterprise Networks (SENs) and a local strategy but we need these everywhere, learning from other parts of Scotland and aligning with the national, 10-year social enterprise strategy.
Social entrepreneurs often tell us that there are barriers for participation in local forums and decision-making bodies. So we’re calling on all officers and elected members to ensure that opportunities are available for the social enterprise voice to be genuinely heard in every arena.
Councils can choose to buy catering, venue space, training, stationary and a wide range of goods and services from social enterprises. As well as driving forward procurement reform and access to contracts, councils should help promote the purchase of social enterprise goods across the community.
We also need a commitment to the protection and enhancement of third sector and social enterprise budgets. Councils should help provide affordable business loans too and we’d like to see strong promotion of credit union membership.
Finally we’re urging councillors and those working for local authorities to reach out to bodies like Social Enterprise Scotland and Ready for Business for support. Many already do but they should all be aware of the wide variety of support that’s available.
The manifesto has been sent out far and wide. We'll follow this up after the election too, in harmony with the new, national 10 year Social Enterprise Strategy.
If election candidates, political parties and council officials support the policies in the manifesto they’ll fulfil their remit to serve the public in every part of Scotland. Please do share the manifesto with all your contacts!
Duncan Thorp is policy and communications officer at Social Enterprise Scotland