Thursday 8 October 2009

Local Government

Local Authorities play a major role in the work of our third sector. Whether in grants or contracts, in policy development or strategic partnership. Relationships though can sometimes be difficult. And testing times are ahead.

I have a long history of work in local government - both as an elected Councillor and as a Director at what is now the LGA. I have a deep affection and attachment to local government though also aware of their drawbacks. Over the next few years our relationship will become more critical, especially if the Conservatives win with their plans to devolve more and abolish the regions, against big spending cuts.

We have a contract to develop a third Sector strategy with Lambeth Council and we intend to grow our work in building a stronger link with local authorities generally. Jenny, our ACEVO North Director is spearheading that. As Councils review their spending they will inevitably review spending on the sector and their grants programmes. They will want to see demonstrable bang for their buck. And so they should - its all our money. So it is our job to demonstrate value added and impact. A knee jerk "no cuts" approach will not work. But a strategy based on constructive dialogue though strategic partnerships and building better links could. We must demonstrate how we will deliver for the Council. How our impact can often be more effective than the Council itself. We can deliver more services and play a bigger role in regeneration, greening and community development. There is a big opportunity for us if we set out our stall effectively.

One of my members, Tom Flood of BTCV, has been having very constructive discussions with Essex CC about playing a much bigger role for the Council in achieving their sustainability goals. So whether we are large national charities or local community groups and enterprises we need to engage. At one of the NLGN fringes in Manchester, two Tory council leaders spoke of a bigger role for the sector in delivery and providing joined up services. Its what organisations like MIND and the "Age Concerns" or WRVS and Groundwork do so well. It's what the Adventure Capital Fund do through their innovative programmes of loans and development grants, which have underpinned the growth of community enterprise.

And we will develop our Lambeth work - we have appointed a new Policy Officer for that. Will be exciting. When I was on the Council after the Brixton riots it became very clear, following Scarman, that regeneration could only take place if the local community and their organisations were fully engaged. It was the first time that the Council had properly engaged with the thirs sector. It worked. Brixton is now a dynamic and thriving community - still with its problems and issues but a great place to live. Why, we even have our own currency these days!

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