Headlines: December 7th, 2007

The number of disputes between charities and local public bodies such as councils and Primary Care Trusts trebled last year, according to the Compact Advocacy Programme, based at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Its annual report shows the number of cases it dealt with went from 14 in 2005-06 to 50 in 2006-07.

The report says that at a time when the Government is looking to devolve more power and decision making, the Advocacy Programme has seen local cases overtake national cases, of which there were only 30 last year. It also reveals what it calls ‘worrying practice at local level’. The most common Compact breaches were funding being ended without proper notice, lack of meaningful consultation and not involving charities in the design of new programmes of work.

Jess Crocker, an Advocate with the Local Compact Advocacy Programme, was delighted organisations were using the Compact to resolve disputes. “However, the statistics show that many local public bodies are still not respecting the Compact and our experience has been that some of the best and worst practice is at a local level. It is high time that the good practice was shared and the Compact is understood and implemented across the country. We hope that this report will be a catalyst for that to happen,” he added.

In one quoted example, Voluntary Action Shrewsbury had issues over getting its local authority to sign up to the Compact and resolving disputes through dialogue and partnership. Marilyn Jones, from the organisation, said, “Surely, with mutual support and the implementation of a Compact, the increase in knowledge, understanding and respect would allow the local community to reap the benefits.” The report calls for resources to be made available so every council has the requirement and the means to enable its local voluntary sector to deliver services effectively.

It also looks at the implementation of the Compact at a national level, where one of its key findings is that non-departmental public bodies generate the most disputes. Of the 30 national cases it dealt with 11 involved NDPBs.