Councils’ fears that buying services from the voluntary sector
might damage their comprehensive performance assessment rating
could prevent them using providers from the sector, a conference
heard last week.
Delegates at a Local Government Association conference on voluntary
sector delivery of public services said that they were nervous
about being penalised under the CPA if risk-taking did not pay off.
They said that there was nothing in the CPA framework that took
account of innovation, so councils were likely to stick to tried
and tested ways of providing services.
Lord Filkin, minister for community policy, said he accepted the
concerns and would speak to the Audit Commission about them.
“Clearly we don’t want councils to stick to traditional delivery
methods just because they work. Without innovation, services can
never get better,” he said.
Filkin told delegates at the conference, held in London, that
“every wide-awake council” should be trying to maximise
volunteering, involve the community and look at how the voluntary
sector could help them address problems in their area.
But Helen Bush, head of policy at the National Council for
Voluntary Organisations, said that her travels around the country
had revealed cynicism among smaller grass-roots voluntary groups
about how much the review would affect them.
Bush, who is on secondment to the Home Office to work on the
Treasury cross-cutting review into voluntary and community
agencies’ role in delivery of services, added that many in the
community sector did not believe that councils would begin to use
their services more because they had been given no extra resources
to do so.
Issues concerning pay differences between local authority and
voluntary sector staff could also cause problems, said delegate
Chris Lee, funding and marketing officer at Hertfordshire-based
voluntary organisation Herts, Minds & Money. He proposed a
mechanism to level pay between the two sectors.
But Filkin rejected the suggestion, saying it would mean creating
national standardised pay within the voluntary sector, which was
not an option.