The Russians are coming! But fear not – a brand new crack squadron of Royal Navy “diversity officers” is here to defend us.

In a week that saw conscription re-entering mainstream discourse in Britain, the Senior Service announced plans to re-deploy serving sailors and marines as equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) officers to enhance the “lived experience” of their comrades. Exactly how this will help repel a future invasion is left unexplained.

Barely a day passes without some similar announcement: from large enterprises to local councils, every major organisation seems intent on embracing and signalling their commitment to social justice. Why is this happening? More to the point, what does it cost?

To the first question, the usual answer is that HR departments have simply been allowed to go rogue. In their obsession with fashionable but divisive identity politics, they have pursued policies that deliver absolutely no benefit to the public they are supposed to serve. In other words, incidents like this are exceptions to the rule, and would not happen if only the HR departments could be brought to heel.

The real reason, however, is much more sinister. Organisations are today required to demonstrate “social value”, thanks to an obscure and little-known piece of legislation that is costing taxpayers billions without delivering any meaningful or measurable benefit. In other words, decisions like these come downstream from law, and the subsequent posturing about the wellbeing of society is nothing more than post-hoc window-dressing. 

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 requires organisations to demonstrate “social value” if they wish to win government contracts. Since coming into force, the law has created an avalanche of red tape that is costing the taxpayer billions, while silently advancing a social agenda that nobody voted for. Furthermore, it shuts SMEs out of the bidding process, giving yet more power to enormous multinational corporations who care first and foremost for their bottom line, wellbeing of the nation be damned. 

Government procurement is the single largest area of public spending, accounting for almost £400 billion every year – so how much of that is wasted on harebrained “social value” initiatives? The answer is, nobody knows.

These are not unconnected instances of good intentions gone wrong, or indeed the actions of a few bad apples  – this happens across the whole sphere of government procurement. Whether it’s your local council, the very top level of government, or, indeed, the Royal Navy, this is simply how things work in the UK now. It’s the law.

The Campaign for Fair Procurement was founded to bring this murky law to light. We are dedicated to counting the cost to the taxpayer, highlighting the damage done to small businesses, and showing how this ill-conceived law devastates competition and innovation across industries.  

If the government truly cared about social value, it would quantify and celebrate the benefits delivered by the Act. In reality, there is no mechanism or statutory body charged with overseeing its implementation, or the ‘social value’ that results. Like Lord Nelson holding the telescope to his blind eye, the government doesn’t care to see the waste that results – and it certainly doesn’t want the public to know.

So the next time you see a story like this, understand that these are not the consequences of rogue civil servants or “woke”  middle managers. They occur because the Social Value Act has left procurement all at sea. We won’t stand by while Britain’s businesses sink beneath the waves.