Just spent the afternoon with Alex Whinnom Director of GMCVO supports the third sector across Manchester. He told me that the sector is struggling with cash-flow problems because local authorities are hard hit and PCTs in meltdown and they cannot give any clear guidance on future contracts . There is government enthusiasm for the role of the sector in supporting volunteers and more innovative personal services and yet, goverment departments ( MOJ, the DH and DWP) are bypassing local organisations for the national work programme and other personal services. Government depts like talking to large national organisations, and are not even advertising contracts through established networks, each department’s preferred supplier list is limited to larger national charities and enterprises, that have little local experience or connection. Those organisations selected to deliver the DWP ‘Work Programme’ across Greater Manchester come from Newcastle, Birmingham and London.
The government’s procurement process has reverted to conventional form, in contrast to many local commissioners who have developed relationships with local organisations, government’s procurement processes completely ignore smaller organisations who are not even informed of what contracts are available. Expression of interest forms geared to large companies in line with government systems. Neither does sub-contracting solve the problem, those subcontacting to larger businesses such as 2Ae to deliver personal services for NEEPs, offenders etc report thet the contract conditions and timescales remove the ability of any local organisation to remain responsive complex needs or work at a pace of change that is realistic. This is so frustrating for those who thought saw the localism agenda as opportunity for local social innovatorsorganisations. Until government transforms its own processes and ways of relating to smaller and medium organisations ( SMEs, Third sector and social enterprise) then they are unlikely to capture social or public service innovation.
It would appear that the government is its intelligence about the value of existing innovation relationships or about the negative impact that their own practices have on the local capacity to develop the ‘Big Society’. By April many local organisations will have closed – one group deposited their books on GMCVO’s reception desk out of sheer frustration, saying they were giving up – they organised volunteers on a large estate.
Why is the Coalition government undermining the relationships that have been built up between local authorities, the PCTs and NOMs and local voluntary organisations? – many of which have been inventing their own way of going to scale through local consortia ?
This is non-sensical and merely yet again reinforces a new centralism – rather than localism…………………..
Latest off the press on Associative Democracy and local leadership see http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/ebooks/AssociativeDemocracy.html a book Andrea Westall has produced in break neck speed after roundtable in November on creating the conditions for local democracy stimulated by the work of Paul Hirst on Associative Democracy and Mary P Follett on the role of local social organisations in making locol democracy alive and real.