Charities eye larger public services role as Milburn takes manifesto post

Voluntary sector leaders have welcomed the re-appointment to the
cabinet of former health secretary Alan Milburn, a strong advocate
of giving voluntary organisations a larger role in public

Milburn will be responsible for Labour’s election strategy and,
significantly, the manifesto for the third-term .

“Giving voluntaries a bigger role is one of Milburn’s big ideas,
and we are hoping it becomes one of Labour’s radical ideas for a
third term,” said Nick Aldridge, head of policy at the Association
of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.

“A lot of our members want a bigger role in the delivery of public
services, but they are held back by poor contracts with primary
care trusts and councils,” he said.

“It is already recognised that the voluntary sector is part of the
answer in areas like mental health and rehab. In other areas, like
child care, it is less developed.”

Chris Stalker, head of campaigns and communications for the
National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “We have been
encouraged by Milburn’s acknowledgement in a recent Demos speech of
other things the voluntary sector does such as active citizenship,
community engagement and joint working between providers and

“It appears that the profile of the sector would be higher in a
third term of the Labour government, and we are encouraged by

Unions were more sceptical about Milburn’s big idea, however. “Our
concern is what the framework will be for the voluntary sector’s
role,” said Malcolm Wing, head of negotiations for Unison.

“If some in government see the voluntary sector as a way of
undermining service delivery through public authorities, and
driving down costs and terms and conditions, then we will strongly
oppose that.

“The voluntary sector is also vulnerable to changes in funding
arrangements, and public service providers need stable, dependable
provision. The voluntary sector’s role is relatively

But Wing questioned the impact of Milburn’s appointment in the
long-term. “I don’t know what influence he’s likely to have after
the election,” he said.

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