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VOLUNTEERS PUT CENTRE STAGE

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Miliband will free voluntary groups to run services...
Miliband will free voluntary groups to run services

By Nick Golding

Commissioning processes will be reformed to make it easier for voluntary organisations to deliver local services, David Miliband has revealed.

The minister for communities and local government announced the summer's local government white paper will propose lifting many of the barriers that make it difficult for voluntary groups to bid to offer local services.

He called on councils to encourage voluntary organisations to get their views across when they draw up sustainable community strategies.

In a keynote speech to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, Mr Miliband said: 'Sometimes this will involve frank exchanges, but the role of local government must be to encourage this dialogue.'

The minister said councils, having campaigned successfully for three-year funding allocations for themselves, should offer similar long-term contracts to private and voluntary sector organisations to give them a fair period of time to build up services.

He also said contracts should set out the 'outcomes to be delivered, rather than the detailed outputs' when services are commissioned.

'Detailed contracts that micro-manage providers' inputs and outputs strangle creativity, innovation and risk taking,' he said.

It is anticipated the voluntary sector will gain opportunities through direct payments for social care recipients, the empowerment of neighbourhoods and new scope for community organisations to take over assets.

Mr Miliband's widely trailed speech constituted the first attempt to publicise the concept of neighbourhood empowerment beyond local government and Labour audiences.

Among the councils to have already devolved power down to the voluntary sector is Richmond upon Thames LBC, which passes on£1.2m annually to the Richmond Council for Voluntary Services to allocate.

Council leader Tony Arbour (Con) said: 'We think the council for voluntary services is in touch much more with the needs of the local population than the town hall is.'

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