Alternative Commission on Social Investment – Wednesday 14 January 2015
Social Enterprise Question Time: “Social Investment: Friend or Foe?”

Huckfield is very pleased to be asked by the National Coalition for Independent Action to appear as a member of the panel at David Floyd’s Alternative Commission on Social Investment (1) at the School for Social Entrepreneurs at the Fire Station, 139 Tooley Street, London, which SSE shares with Social Enterprise UK and others – an interesting location!

This is the link for booking your place on Wednesday 14 January 2015 – Social Enterprise Question Time presents: Social Investment, Friend or Foe?

Huckfield hopes you can make it. If you’re unable to attend this interesting debate, this posting is offered in anticipation of what he hopes to say!

As a political aside – made from Huckfield’s political detachment in Scotland – since David Floyd’s Alternative Commission is funded by Esmee Fairbairn, things are beginning to look as though the hard line social investment lobby is now dwindling down to the Cabinet Office, Office for Civil Society, Big Society Capital, UnLtd and Social Enterprise UK. Huckfield wonders whether any of these might be hoping that the Final Report from David’s Commission provides a reason for jumping ship, or at least checking out the lifeboats?

What the Government is trying to do

Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in his Introductory Remarks at the IFS Presentation (2) on Thursday 04 December 2014, following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, was clear in the Government’s intentions:

(p2)“So there is no spending dividend on the horizon. Far from it. There are huge cuts to come. On these plans, whatever way you look at it, we are considerably less than half way through the cuts”

(p4)“If you look specifically at spending by Whitehall departments, then about £35bn of cuts have happened, with £55bn to come”.

Apart from these direct cuts by Whitehall Departments and local government, the Government seeks to shift as much delivery as possible outside the public sector, where it perceives less encumbrance from proper contracts of employment, wages and terms and conditions. This shift outside the public sector involves:

  • conversion of central and local government departments into so called “public service mutuals” – often without the participation of those whose jobs are affected
  • social investment, social impact bonds and payment by results – the subject of this Alternative Commission on Social Investment (1)

The intended purpose of this frenetic activity, generously funded by the Cabinet Office, Office for Civil Society, Big Society Capital and Big Lottery, is that the public purse only pays the marginal cost of delivery – for one more unit of output. So indirect costs, overheads and infrastructure are funded elsewhere – initially through a reconstructed third sector and ultimately from private philanthropy, investment and equity. All this is now being sold round the world by the British Council, with UnLtd and Social Enterprise UK in tow.

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Labour Struggles with Third Sector Policy

As we say in Scotland, Labour is in a real guddle over social enterprise and the wider third sector.

Whatever the result, it seems that little will change after the General Election of Thursday 07 May 2015. Chi Onurwah MP, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, has said We intend to define what social enterprise means. (3) Though this sounds encouraging – especially since Chi doesn’t have the usual “political researcher” background – this is not easy territory, especially since many problems described below emanate from the original New Labour Department of Trade and Industry definition in Social Enterprise: A Strategy for Success (4) in July 2002:

(p13)“A social enterprise is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners”

Defining social enterprise in basic business terms has caused trouble since New Labour and the Coalition have sought to extend this to cover most of the wider third sector.

(Huckfield here declares an interest as a member of the Board of the Social Entrepreneurs Network Scotland (Senscot), which has its own Voluntary Code of Practice for Social Enterprise in Scotland (5), which enshrines an asset lock and doesn’t support distribution. It emphasises “the values and behaviours by which we recognise each other”)

In case you missed this just before Christmas, on Wednesday 10 December 2014, Lisa Nandy MP, Shadow Minister for Civil Society Minister, unwrapped more New Labour thinking to revive New Labour’s Compact with the Voluntary Sector. Since in many Whitehall Departments the Compact is viewed as a mechanism for bringing greater discipline to the wider third sector, this is mixed news.

Third Sector reported her speech Labour would reverse recent changes to judicial review (6), of Wednesday 10 Deceember 2014:

“She told Third Sector this would help move away from the current situation in which at least half of public contracts go to big private providers, which subcontract to charities or social enterprises. In some areas of the country, including my constituency of Wigan, the Work Programme was literally less effective than doing nothing”

Perhaps someone should remind her that it was New Labour, when in October 2009 it rolled out its Flexible New Deal programme, which introduced all the basic elements of the Work Programme, including private prime contractors?

According to the Guardian’s General Election 2015: Labour’s Vision for the Charity Sector,(7) Lisa Nandy continued:

“They will also allow government departments to reserve specific contracts for social enterprises and not-for-profits – avoiding a situation where charities and social enterprises are in a bidding war with private companies and huge reserves”.

But all this falls very short of saying that New Labour will legislate for this. The section below shows what needs to be done.

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The Rush to Mutuals

The Coalition Government, supported by New Labour, many Labour Councils, Coops UK, the Coop Group and many others, are rushing headlong to spin out “public service mutuals” as cheaper delivers of public services. For the Coalition Government, this entails a minimalist interpretation of the EU’s new Procurement Directive, transferring risk to employees and, after three years, opening these public service contracts to full blown competition from Serco, G4S and the rest – in other words, privatisation by stealth.

Transposition into UK Law of the EU Procurement Directive

Huckfield hopes that Lisa Nandy’s speech above commits New Labour to amend the Transposition of the 2014 EU Procurement Directives (8), which, following a deliberately short four week consultation period in September/October 2014, the Coalition Government wants to rush onto the Statute Book by March 2015.

Though the Coalition Government wants to use a UK version of the EU Procurement Directive to help Councils and the NHS to set up Public Service Mutuals, it intends that any kind of organisation may qualify, since its ownership structure, including employee ownership, need only come into effect “if and when it performs the contract” – as shown on page 20 of the draft Public Procurement: Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (9).

So the Coalition Government’s intention is that private companies can compete for this work and change their structures only if and when they get the contract.

On page 63 of the Draft Regulations (9), under Contract Award Criteria there is provision for contracts to be awarded solely on the basis of cost or cost effectiveness without any quality criteria, and without provision for exclusion of organisations with previous ethical breaches, including blacklisting, failure to observe employment tribunal decisions, health and safety and environmental and tax breaches.

Since the Coalition intends to rush all this onto the Statute Book before the General Election, why can’t New Labour now make it clear that it will introduce basic amendments to make possible what Lisa Nandy has already said?

Fortunately, Scotland has its own procurement regime and the Scottish Government is in no similar rush to transpose the EU Directive into Scottish law, which is not required till April 2016.

Rich Pickings for the Mutuals Consultants

For reasons shown above, the UK Coalition Government is rushing to spin out ‘mutuals’.

The Kings Fund Report of Review of Staff Engagement and Empowerment in the NHS (10), in July 2014 on page 34 refers to “40 new mutuals delivering services in the NHS”. Some of these spinouts appear to have involved little staff consultation and minutes of any setup decisions are not accessible under Freedom of Information.

In September 2014, the Cabinet Office Suppliers: Information and Contract Opportunities (11) showed 67 proposals for “mutual spinouts”, mostly from local authorities, supported through £4.18mn of consultancy support from the Cabinet Office, with a further 11 awaiting “contract opportunities” with £618,000 approved consultancy support. No wonder that Mutual Ventures, which has so far received £1.1mn, and Bates, Wells and Braitwaite, which has received £430,688 from the Cabinet Office, are so keen on public service mutuals.

This is the same solicitors’ firm Bells, Waites and Braithwaite which on Wednesday 21 January 2015, is offering a seminar called Calling Time on the National Minimum Wage:

“to equip you with the necessary knowledge to respond effectively to challenges from employees, staff representatives and unions regarding the classification and payment of sleepovers, on-call time and travelling time. You will be provided with practical tips for managing the risk of legal challenges”.

This doesn’t give an appearance that mutuals spun out by Bates, Wells and Braithwaite will be generous in interpreting the National Minimum Wage.

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The Rush to Social Investment

The rush to social investment is at the same frenetic pace as mutuals spin outs – except that it’s not going very well, which may be one of the motives behind funding the Alternative Commission on Social Investment (1).

Social Investment involves loans, philanthropic venture capital, equity and ultimately individual private investment to provide the infrastructure, indirect costs and basis for delivery of public services. It means measurement and monetisation of outputs and payment by results. Above all, it usually means that if providers don’t deliver, they don’t get paid.

Government Attempts to grow the Social Investment Market

Ronald Cohen’s Final Report of the Social Investment Task Force Social Investment: Ten Year On (12) in April 2010 and the Growing the Social Investment Market: A Vision and Strategy (13) in February 2011 are rivals in social investment optimism.

Chapter Five of the Final Report of the Social Investment Task Force Social Investment: Ten Year On (12) says:

“If 5% of the £86.1bn estimated to be invested in ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts) were also directed to Social Investment, this would generate a flow of an additional £4.3bn. Taken together, these four sources – philanthropic foundations, institutionally managed assets, grant funding and individual savings accounts – could generate £14.2bn for Social Investment”

The Coalition Government’s Cabinet Office White Paper, February 2011 Growing the Social Investment Market: A Vision and Strategy (13) in Chapter Two simply echoes this:

“But the opportunity is large. UK charitable investment and endowment assets alone account for nearly £95bn. If just 5% of these assets, 0.5% of institutionally managed assets and 5% of retail investments in UK ISAs were attracted to Social Investment, that would unlock around £10bn of new finance capacity.”

But the practical experience has been very different. Since, so far, despite a significant commitment of funds and resources, there have been few willing takers, the Coalition Government has tried:

  • Government subsidies and funding schemes, including using the Big Lottery to pay returns to investors, which, though Ministers can direct Big Lottery, hardly fits within the spirit of New Labour’s National Lottery Act 2006 (14).
  • channelling social investment through Big Society Capital and a range of Social Investment Financial Intermediaries (SIFIs) – many of which don’t have a background in social enterprise and the wider third sector. For a really down to earth view on SIFIs, please read Robbie Davison’s latest posting 2014: Little has changed in Social Finance and now we have Profit with Purpose vehicles – Let’s hope 2015 turns out better (15)
  • widening the “social enterprise” eligibility criteria to include for profit companies limited by shares, so that external private investors get a return from social investment
  • introducing Social Investment Tax Relief and raising the Dividend Cap for Community Interest Companies so that external private investors get a bigger return

‘Profit with Purpose’ from the ever helpful UnLtd

As shown above, part of the Government’s effort to make social investment work involves widening eligibility for those organisations able to participate. In September 2014, with Cliff Prior from UnLtd as Chair, the Social Impact Investment Taskforce’s Mission Alignment Working Group produced Profit with Purpose Businesses (16), which includes the following:

(p10)“There is often resistance to the notion that social purpose entities should be allowed to earn income and distribute profit”

(p18)“From a legal point of view, the main difference between profit-with-purpose business and social or solidarity enterprise is the degree of flexibility regarding the distribution of profits and use of assets. The key principle that a primary focus on impact can be combined with at least a partial distribution of profits is common to both, and our proposed legal framework allows for either”

(p18)“Social mission businesses are not the only businesses that may create significant social impact or be appropriate recipients of impact investments…..the category of businesses-seeking-impact is less well defined than that of social mission businesses and
essentially includes any business that intends to create a social impact but does not share all of the defining characteristics of a social mission business”

The 43 pages of Profit with Purpose Businesses (16) advocates that a wider range of eligible structures, possibly including Benefit Corporations imported from the United States, should be allowed to access social investment funds.

Page 28 of this Report includes:

“The law of the country should not prohibit investment managers or fiduciaries responsible for investing pension funds or endowments from investing some portion of those funds in businesses-seeking-impact.

This makes George Osborne’s liberalisation of Annuities Regulations appear cautious in excess!

Cliff Prior became Chief Executive of UnLtd in November 2006. Since then UnLtd has increased the percentage of companies limited by shares which may benefit through its various funds. Referring to the recent disagreement with Senscot and CAN, in Third Sector on Thursday 18 December 2014, in ‘Profit with Purpose’: the Dispute over doing well while doing good (17), Stephen Cook wrote:

“The argument apparently came to a head when in July 2012 the UnLtd board considered an internal report that showed that, between May 2008 and December 2011, 25% and 37.5% respectively of the stage two and three grants (the larger ones) from its main fund, the Millennium Awards Trust, went to companies limited by shares. The proportion in Big Venture Challenge – larger UnLtd matched awards made with Big Lottery Fund money – was 44%”.

Section 3 on eligibility for UnLtd’s Application Guidance for its 2015 Big Venture Challenge Fund (18), gives the game away:

“Social entrepreneurs with ventures of any legal incorporation form may apply – that includes charities, not‐for‐profit Companies Limited by Guarantee, Community Interest Companies or for‐profit Companies Limited by Shares…..We expect social entrepreneurs to want to put the social mission to the fore and to wish to protect it for the future to ensure investment delivers increased impact as well as generating increased revenues”.

This careful phrasing “put the social mission to the fore and to wish to protect if for the future” surely covers any organisation which chooses the right words to describe what it does?

‘Purpose with Profit’ has always been clear – to make Social Investment work!

Huckfield is a bit puzzled by David Floyd’s posting Purpose Unclear (19) on Monday 05 January 2015, where he seeks to understand Cliff Prior’s purpose.

Huckfield has always thought that the motive of New Labour and Coalition Governments, Big Society Capital and UnLtd were always very clear – to secure and use more private money for funding public services, now that austerity – irrespective of the outcome of the Thursday 07 May 2015 General Election – is the new normal.

The real trouble is that since New Labour’s 2008 Dormant Bank Accounts Act and the introduction of Big Society Capital in 2012, the Cabinet Office, Big Society Capital and their tame retinue of Social Investment Financial Intermediaries have recognised that they can’t make it work – because neither the supply nor demand for significant social investment really exist.

In this posting Purpose Unclear (19) David refers to Nick O’Donohoe’s posting How Social Investment has Developed in 2014 (20) posting on Friday 12 December 2014. Nick was once more admitting that Big Society Capital can’t shift its social investment money.

“Social investment as a tool for reforming public services, and social investment to meet the repayable finance needs of small and medium-sized social enterprises are two very different things, requiring different approaches, and currently at different levels of success. And these two things do not even cover the entirety of what we are considering at Big Society Capital when we are thinking about the social investment market”

What on earth does “the entirety of what we are considering at Big Society” mean? If you read through the rest of Nick O’Donohoe’s piece, he’s mostly talking about passing on money to intermediaries. There’s not much evidence of any of this actually hitting the ground for hard pressed organisations. He continues:

“However, there are clearly challenges around complexity, unnecessary oversight and bureaucracy. Commissioners and arrangers need to address these issues”.

Despite the Cabinet Office funding programmes, Big Lottery and other subsidies and the rest, this is really BSC-speak for “We can’t get it to work”.

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Social Investment – the Hype and the Reality

The First Billion: A Forecast of Social Investment Demand (21), published in April 2012, by Boston Consulting Group and Big Society Capital, set a breathtaking pace for extravagance:

(p8)“We found market participants to be bullish about the future. From around £165mn of social investment deals made in 2011, our study shows that demand for social investment could rise to £286mn in 2012, and then to £750mn in 2015, finally reaching around £1bn by 2016 if trends continue as forecast”.

In Impact Investment: The Invisible Heart of the Market, the Report of the Social Investment TaskForce (22), on September 15 2014, the Taskforce chaired by Ronald Cohen continued in the same vein.

This Report shows a massive international commitment of resources for social investment promoted by the UK Presidency of the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in June 2013. There is a myriad structure of International Working Groups on Impact Measurement, Mission Alignment and International Development, not to mention National Advisory Boards in Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and USA. Page 18 of this Report talks about The First Trillion of social impact investment!

Big Society Capital’s Annual Reports

Against all this hype, Big Society Capital’s first two Annual Reports and Accounts demonstrate clearly the harsh reality of very slow growth for the social investment market.

Big Society Capital’s First Annual Report (23), published on Friday 10 May 2013:

(p10)“By the end of 2012 we had committed £56mn to 20 different intermediaries, £19mn firmly committed and £37mn subject to matching finance being raised.”

Further harsh reality was shown in May 2014 with the publication of Big Society Capital’s Social Investment: From Ambition to Action: Annual Review, Report and Accounts 2013 (24):

(p41)“…. 19 investments with a value of £47.9mn have been signed and £13.1mn has been drawn down. Big Society Capital’s expectation is that the average investment will typically take between 3 and 6 years to fully draw down. Alongside the signed investments made by Big Society Capital, £55.5mn has been committed by co-investors, taking the total value of capital available to the market to £103.4mn.”

Even allowing for any qualifications of a meagre £13.1mn drawing down of funds from Big Society Capital in 2013, the size difference between this – which shows drawing down of funds to intermediaries not to end beneficiaries – and the “first billion” and “first trillion” above, is alarming.

In its July 2013 Report, Growing the Social Investment Market: The Landscape and Economic Impact (25) City of London Economic Research Department shows both the limitations and limited penetration for Social Investment:

“The development of the Social Investment Market is sparse and highly concentrated. The three largest organisations accounted for 81% of total investment (by value) in 2011/12, and seven organisations accounted for 91% of investment”

As a proportion of all social investment, this Report continued to show that 90% was for secured loans, mostly through social banks, and only 1% for Social Impact Bonds. As might be expected, despite the limitations and slow growth of the UK Social Investment market, the Government itself continues in ever optimistic mode.

Growing the Social investment Market: 2014 Progress Update (24), published by the Cabinet Office and Minister for Civil Society, shows:

(p16)“In 2011/12, the market grew to £202mn over 765 investment deals. At a gross level, over the lifetime of their finance period, the 765 investments resulted in the creation or safeguarding of 340 social ventures, 6,870 FTE jobs, and £58mn in annual GVA contribution to the UK economy. We expect this to be the lower bound of the total size of the market”.

These reports show that despite considerable Cabinet Office funding and publicity by Big Society Capital and Social Investment Financial Intermediaries, social investment is making only meagre progress.


In the light of all these ongoing difficulties, when we add together Cabinet Office funding programmes, Big Society Capital’s outlays, Big Lottery subsidies, the cost of tax relief and the rest, wouldn’t it be better if all these funds could be used to provide low cost loans, grants and other operating support for genuine social enterprises?

Huckfield reckons that if people realised that this was how unclaimed bank accounts were being spent, many would be alarmed.

Worst of all is the damage that all this is doing to the reputation and standing of genuine social enterprises. No wonder that the British Council’s What will Social Enterprise look like in Europe by 2020 (27) says on page 4:

“And as the funding pendulum swings away from grants towards loans and venture capital, priorities start to be assessed based on which social outcomes can be profitable, monetised or marketised. Social issues where it’s difficult to put a financial value on the outcomes will become much harder to fund”.

And concludes on page 7:

“There may well not be a recognisable ‘Social Enterprise sector’ by 2020. Certainly any attempts to confine social enterprise to specific legal structures or models of governance will have ceased”.

Though the UK Government, the British Council and their tame posse of social investment disciples are trying to give cheap public service delivery a veneer of respectability, this British Council paper gives the game away about their intended direction of travel.

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(1) Alternative Commission on Social Investment. Floyd. 2014. Social Spider, London

(2)Johnson,Paul; Institute for Fiscal Studies Briefing on Autumn Statement 2014 Institute for Fiscal Studies Briefing on Autumn Statement 2014, 2014, 2014, Thursday 04 December 2014, Institute for Fiscal Studies;, London,

(3) Onwurah, Chi “We intend to define what social enterprise means”. Third Sector. October 31 2014 Haymarket Press, London,

(4)Department of Trade and Industry Social Enterprise: a Strategy for Success 2002, Department of Trade and Industry, London, July 2002

(5)Senscot Voluntary Code of Practice for Social Enterprise December 2014, Senscot. Edinburgh

(6) Birkwood, Susannah “Labour would reverse recent changes to judicial review, says Lisa Nandy” December 10 2014 Third Sector Haymarket Press, London.

(7) Meade, Aimee “General Election 2015: Labour’s Vision for the Charity Sector” December 10 2014 Guarian Press and Media Ltd London.

(8) Cabinet Office. September 29 2014 Transposition of 2014 EU Procurement Directives. Cabinet Office GOV.UK London.

(9) Cabinet Office. October 2014 Public Procurement: The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 Cabinet Office GOV.UK London.

(10) King’s Fund. Improving NHS Care by Engaging Staff and Devolving Decision Making: Report of the Review of Staff Engagement and Empowerment in the NHS. King’s Fund, 2014, 1-76, Kings Fund, London

(11) Cabinet Office. September 2014 Suppliers: Information and Contract Opportunities Cabinet Office GOV UK London.

(12) Cohen, Ronald. Social Investment Ten Years On. Final Report of the Social Investment Task Force April 2010 Social Investment Task Force London.

(13) Cabinet Office. Growing the Social Investment Market February 2011 Cabinet Office GOV UK London.

(14) HM Government. National Lottery Act 2006 Chapter 23 Explanatory Notes. Legislation GOV.UK London.

(15) Davison, Robbie “2014:Little has changed in Social Finance and now we have Profit With Purpose vehicles – Let’s hope 2015 turns out better in Can Cook – The Food Campaign January 5 2015 Can Cook, Liverpool.

(16) Social Impact Investment Taskforce. Profit with Purpose Businesses: Subject Paper of the Mission Alignment Working Group. UnLtd. September 2014

(17) Wood, Stephen.”‘Profit with purpose’: the dispute over doing well while doing good” December 18 2014 Third Sector Haymarket Press, London.

(18) UnLtd. ‘Eligibility and Criteria’ in Big Venture Challenge Application Form 2015 UnLtd. London.

(19) Floyd, David. “Purpose Unclear” in Beanbags and Bullshit January 5 2015 Social Spider London.

(20) O’Dononoe,Nick. “How social investment has developed in 2014”. Big Society Capital. Friday 12 December 2014 London.

(21)Brown,Adrian; Swersky,Adam; The First Billion : A Forecast of Social Investment Demand September 2012, Big Society Capital;Boston Consulting Group, London.

(22) Social Impact Investment TaskForce. Impact Investment: The Invisible Heart of the Markets. Social Impact Investment Taskforce. September 15 2014[3].pdf

(23) Big Society Capital First Annual Report: Annual Review and Accounts 2012 May 2013, Big Society Capital;, London.

(24) Big Society Capital Social Investment: From Ambition to Action: Annual Review and Accounts 2013 May 2014, Big Society Capital;, London.

(25) BMG Research. Growing the Social Investment Market: The Landscape and Economic Impact. July 2013 City of London, Big Lottery Fund, HN Government.

(26) HM Government. Growing the Social Investment Market. 2014 Progress Update. HM Government.London.

(27)Catherall,Richard J; Richardson,Mark. What will Social Enterprise look like in Europe by 2020? British Council, 2013, 1-12, British Council;, Manchester.

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