Sunday, October 01, 2006

Public services and the sector

A new report published by the NCVO hopes to focus arguments surrounding the transfer of public services to third sector organisations. The report, published to influence both the independent Lyons Inquiry into local government funding and the White Paper on the future of local government, states that more attention should be placed on what this transfer of roles hopes to achieve and in what way the transfer will produce them.

A simple transfer of roles is not enough, the report states. Instead, the report outlines how local government and third sector organisations must work closely together to bring about improved services that cater to the individual needs of specific groups and communities.

“An important approach to improved services and even stronger communities lies at the creation and fostering of voluntary and community organisations as well as active local resident groups,” said Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, which sponsored the report.

“This publication will help local authorities and the voluntary and community sector build on the successes to date and look at how they can work together to transform public services and local communities to the benefit of all local residents.”

The report outlines steps that must be taken in the transferring of services, such as the ability to adapt to special needs, the allotment for citizens and communities to have a voice in the process, and accounting for full cost recovery.

“…Neither voluntary organisations or local authorities can work alone – they must work together for better outcomes for local people,” said Stuart Etherington, NCVO’s chief executive.

Minister for the third sector Ed Miliband has also reconfirmed his commitment to the Compact as the defining instrument in the relationship between government and the voluntary sector.

Speaking at the NAVCA annual conference, Miliband said effective partnership with the sector would strengthen communities and transform public services, while also ensuring that it also retained its independent campaigning voice.

“Partnership is a two-way street – we need understanding, openness and respect on both sides,” the minister said. “For our part, government at all levels needs to live by the principles of the Compact, with multi-year funding the norm. Meanwhile I know the sector recognises it must do all it can to work with and respect local government, the democratically elected voice of local people.“Councils for voluntary services do incredibly valuable work in a pressured environment with frontline organisations, and it is crucial government supports them in the right way,” Miliband added.

Responding to the speech, NAVCA chief executive Kevin Curley said there was now a chance that the Compact could become an effective framework for the relationship between local government and the voluntary and community sector across England.“I am impressed that the minister recognises VCS involvement in LAAs [local area agreements] is not as strong as it needs to be and that this will be addressed in the local government White Paper, and am very pleased to hear the minister recognising the ongoing importance of grant funding for small local organisations.

At the conference, delegates passed a proposal from trustees to invite a wide range of local VCS infrastructure organisations to join NAVCA. The motion, which achieved 97% support, means that organisations such as the Learning and Skills Consortia and Community Empowerment Networks will be able to become members of the umbrella group.

Ed Milliband attended a recent presentation of BTEC Professional Certificates in Voluntary Sector Management to charity managers in Doncaster, many of whom have studied for this qualification as a means of updating their own skills and reviewing their organisational processes in order to be better equipped to tender for contracts.


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