Bucking the trend towards mergers, acquisitions and single contracts to corporate predators, positive news is coming in from West Sussex, where fresh agreements between the local authorities and the County’s seven CVSs explicitly recognise the importance of locally accountable provision.
Several years ago, the County was a focus of an NCIA study into the effects of competitive tendering, which identified unnecessary hoops that the local voluntary sectors were being forced through, and spelled out examples of how this was destroying the very seed corn of locally-rooted voluntary action and volunteering. A complete withdrawal by West Sussex County Council from support for CVSs and volunteer centres, or enforced competitive tendering open to all comers, would almost certainly have destroyed collective, co-operative community and voluntary action, ripping apart decades of hard-won local and voluntary engagement.
However, as a result of over a year of negotiation between the local authorities and CVSs, District & Borough councils in West Sussex are now signing off agreements with West Sussex County Council to start (from April 2013) funding each of the County’s seven CVSs locally. The intention is that their activities reflect local need and local circumstances. This will be for a minimum three year period and finally kills off any suggestion that West Sussex County Council commissions its VCS support and development via a large countywide contract with open competitive tendering. Most of the CVS funding patterns will remain largely unchanged with a 3 year period to allow local changes to services based on local research and knowledge.
NCIA welcomes this really positive outcome, an acorn in an increasingly arid national desert. Let’s take space to be thankful for such wins, and in this case, to the local authority staff and elected members who listened to and saw the logic of the arguments.
For further information contact Adrian Barritt at Adur Voluntary Action – firstname.lastname@example.org (01903 854980) – or Seth Gottesman at the County Council – email@example.com (mobile: 07921291091)