Headlines: November 3rd, 2004

A system could soon be in place to help voluntary organisations that believe they have been treated unfairly by a local authority or other local government funder. The Compact Advocacy Programme has announced that it is looking for funding so it can extend its service to investigating breaches of Local Compacts.Nine out of ten local councils are signed up to local compacts or are in the process of developing them with their local voluntary and community sector. The Compact serves as the framework for their relationship allowing problems to be addressed and any improvements to be made. The local agreements mirror the national Compact and it is hoped that a combination of an agreed Compact and a advocacy service will prevent breakdowns between the parties such as the recent dispute between Leicester City Council and the local voluntary organsiations it funded.

The Advocacy Programme’s current remit covers only the policing of Compact compliance in central Government departments and agencies. Since its launch nearly two years ago it has dealt with 30 Compact Advocacy cases and launched a website that helps organisations identify Compact breaches. It has also worked to expose the lack of Compact awareness in non-departmental public bodies. Now it wants to raise the funds to launch a new local Compact Advocacy service in the New Year.

Breaches in a Local Compact could include a council unreasonably delaying a decision on funding or failing to consult with an organisation on policy changes which will have a direct impact on it. For Primary Care Trusts it could include threatening to withdraw grants because a voluntary organisation is critical of its policies.

Millie Barrett, CAP Officer said, “While CAP has enjoyed some success at helping to improve Compact compliance at a national level we are acutely aware that most statutory relationships are at a local level. It is clearly time for us to start taking on cases brought to our attention by local voluntary organisations.”