Third sector can be first choice for local services

The unique skills and community benefits of the third sector must not be overlooked by councils looking to improve local public services, Communities Secretary John Denham said.

Many third sector organisations bid to deliver community based local services but Ministers are concerned that too many lack the technical skills or are too small scale to win contracts for council run projects. Speaking at a meeting of council leaders and key third sector organisations, Mr Denham said: “In the quest for leaner more efficient services we still need to find ways for councils to take advantage of the positive social outcomes the third sector provides.”

The Government also launched a new community enterprise strategic framework to help more local groups set up successful local social enterprises. The framework, announced by Barbara Follett at the Funding the Future conference, sets out how Government will help put community enterprises onto a stronger footing with more support, skills training and advice such as how to set up consortiums or franchises to increase their competitive clout when bidding for council contracts.

The public sector is facing a period of constrained expenditure and with philanthropic donations slowing it is vital that community enterprises can raise their own finances. The strategic framework reinforces the commitment to explore new innovative ways to independently raise funds.

Community shares could allow local people to raise funds to maintain or buy a stake in important community services like the village shop or local pub to ensure its survival. A football supporters club could form a co-operative to take over their team, giving the supporters a chance to purchase community shares and so have a say in its future.

As part of Putting the Frontline First the Government proposed piloting Social Impact Bonds as a new way of funding the third sector to provide services. This has the potential to radically change how government funds the third sector, by rewarding social investors for work which reduces future social costs. CLG is actively testing the feasibility of a pilot in Leeds.

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