Rob Wilson addresses the Northern Enterprise Conference in Manchester

Creating an environment for enterprises to thrive in the north.

Thank you for that introduction.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to come to this great city and particularly at the moment; when so much is changing and we are all thinking about how that change can present opportunity.

You will be spending much of today discussing how devolution and the Northern Powerhouse present opportunities for the social economy in future years.

How more decisions, made locally, can result in better outcomes for local people and build more resilient, involved and prosperous communities.

As the Minister for Civil Society I am eager to use our great position within the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to demonstrate how we too can contribute to those goals.

We are now in the best possible place in government to deliver more help and support to those who want to grow their business, maximise their social impact and help us improve the quality of public services.

Our new department has a fantastic track record in bringing together Government, business and community to create success and social purpose.

Over 13% of GDP is in industries overseen by DCMS and often they are the fastest growing.

I’m sure I don’t have to make that point too strongly to an audience sat here in the home of Media City, British Cycling and world class culture and heritage- such as the Whitworth Art Gallery.

I’m pleased to say that earlier this week I launched the Government’s new Inclusive Economy Unit. It will work on growing investment for social impact, improving public services and to support responsible business.

The Inclusive Economy Unit will provide leadership expertise and advice across government and will have a broader objective to realise the potential of public service mutuals and mission-led businesses.

It carries forward the work of our existing social investment team, but will take this to a new scale; creating an inclusive economy that works for all sections of society - in particular expanding opportunity for those who are struggling to cope.

For example the unit is already working with DCLG to bring social investment knowledge to bear on government plans to build more affordable homes for vulnerable people.

It will also get behind the power of business to generate social impact, building on the current review of Mission-led Business, and deliver our ongoing work to bring the right investment opportunities to social enterprises.

Creating an inclusive economy will be a partnership between business, government and the social sector. Our focus on ways to improve services and deliver social impact, through models like social impact bonds, is still firmly on the agenda.

I’m also pleased to report that my ministerial colleague in the Business Department, Nick Hurd, and I have this week hosted a roundtable with key figures from the social enterprise sector to look at how we can keep building on our success.

And it’s worth reflecting for a moment on our record so far.

1) Setting up Big Society Capital (BSC), the world’s first social investment wholesaler, capitalised with £600m from dormant assets and private sector banks - represented here today and keen to drive growth.

2) The creation of Social Investment Tax Relief that already has featured in millions of pounds worth of business and dozens of deals. It’s early days but it is already outsripping Treasury forecasts.

3) The creation of the the world’s first Social Impact Bond. This country has more SIBs than anywhere else in the world. Successful SIB’s deliver better value for money for the taxpayer, opportunity for charities and social enterprises and most importantly, better life chances for people who really need them.

Through SIBs, at risk children and vulnerable homeless people in this City are having their life chances transformed. In Newcastle, four local voluntary and community organisations are helping people with long term conditions make the best choices and have a better quality of life.

4) We have supported public service mutuals sector to grow - up from just 9 in 2010, to around 115 today. Public service mutuals deliver over £1.5 billion in public services in a range of areas - from youth services and adult social care, to libraries and building management.

Across a range of services public service mutuals are contributing to a thriving social economy - and freeing front line workers to deliver innovative, responsive services in our communities.

Take for example:

• Explore in York - providing an array of library and archive services across York, including reading cafes and a mobile library, or
• PossAbilities in Rochdale - delivering flexible person-centred care services to vulnerable people, their carers and families.

Social enterprises in this country already employ over two million people. We know that social enterprises have a more diverse leadership than conventional business and bring economic activity to more deprived areas.

I’m delighted to see that the agenda is being embraced here in the North. Our host here today, Rosie Jolly is the Mayoral lead for social value in Liverpool.

We have colleagues here from Salford who have declared themselves a social enterprise city, an agenda again enthusiastically embraced by Paul Dennet, the elected Mayor.

We recognise the unique value that the sector can bring to public services. That’s why we implemented the Social Value Act. To open up opportunity for charities and social enterprises to grow and to improve our public services.

Our own social value awards recognised fantastic practice from across the North of England. For example, Durham County Council who has integrated social value principles across their entire procurement, going way above and beyond the requirements of the Act.

In Halton, the NHS, Clinical Commissioning Group and borough council have embedded social value into £250m worth of public sector spend.

I think that’s a record to be proud of but we have so much more to do.

That’s why we have launched the £80m fund to support the next step of growth for Social Investment Bonds.

Over the coming months we will be looking for new partnerships that drive innovation and deliver quality services for those most in need; looked after children, those struggling with drugs and alcohol, early years support, vulnerable young adults and services for older people.

We will also be providing good practice guidance, advice and even resources for technical support because we don’t want Social Impact Bonds to be a complicated and costly process.

I also want to continue to grow the funds available for all kinds of social investment including a further look at the use of dormant assets for this purpose.

Now, I talked earlier about the potential of the Social Value Act to open up opportunities. But we know that not enough people know how to practically implement it or measure its impact.

To address this, last year we funded 8 different providers with expertise, to work with commissioners in practically applying social value. This work was known as the Social Value Implementation and Measurement Project.

Each provider has documented their experience through a case study and the first two were published on GOV.UK in early September and the rest will be available soon.

Each of these organisations worked in partnership with a public sector organisation and the aim was to explore ways to help embed social value into their processes.

We are also supporting Commissioning Academies, not least here in Manchester, to help senior commissioners leverage more social value from contracts.

We are also shining a light on our own practices by reviewing government departments’ own implementation of the Act. The results of that will be published later this year.


I know the whole business of procurement is bound up with European regulation and I appreciate that the future is a little uncertain.

But let me be clear on this point; our goal is to deliver more opportunity for social value procurement - not less, regardless of any change that might occur as a result of Brexit.

I have a clear goal. I want to see a more independent, commercially aware and capable charity and social enterprise sector.

A sector that can access grants, loans, philanthropy and earned income without being entirely dependent on the state. A sector that knows it’s worth.

An enterprising sector; for the benefit of its communities; for the benefit of the North, for the benefit of all.

Thank you


Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Rob Wilson MP