Headlines: July 21st, 2008

There is new evidence of the growing confidence among local authorities about the Third Sector’s ability to deliver services. Research has found more than half of elected councillors believe charities can deliver public services as cost effectively as councils can.

The online survey was conducted by the think tank nfpSynergy and found that 58 per cent of councillors and half of the local authority staff that responded support that view. The proportions rise to 63 per cent of members and 59 per cent of staff when asked to compare charities ability to deliver with that of companies.

By contrast, responses from local authority staff show that private firms have gained 26 per cent of delivery contracts with only 14 per cent going to the Third Sector. The study is based on a representative sample of 460 councillors and more than 420 Local Authority staff ranging from Chief Executives to those working in primary care trusts, social care, housing and education as well as in finance and corporate divisions.

NfpSynergy, which works in the not for profit sector, investigated councils’ shifting attitudes and behaviour towards charities in England and Wales, particularly in relation to service provision. Joe Saxton, the think tank’s driver of ideas, said charities should be encouraged by the public sector’s stated commitment to helping them thrive and by the positive attitude of the majority of councillors and staff.

He added, “However, all parties should question the seemingly low uptake of provision by the voluntary sector in a wide range of areas. The public sector spirit seems willing, yet conversion into charity contracts remains weak. Surely, actions speak louder than words.”