The Conservative Party would replace the Office of the Third Sector with a more wide-ranging 'Office for Civil Society' if it were elected, party leader David Cameron said today.
The commitment is one of a number of pledges set out in a green paper on the sector, unveiled by Cameron at a launch event at the Sunlight Development Trust in Gillingham, Kent, this afternoon.
The paper, A Stronger Society: Voluntary Action in the 21st Century, is designed to spark consultation with the voluntary sector, which will lead to the final development of the party’s manifesto pledges ahead of the next general election.
The proposals also include measures to beef up the Compact and replace the Big Lottery Fund with a 'Voluntary Action Lottery Fund' that would be legally protected from government raids.
The Tories also promised to streamline the system for processing Criminal Records Bureau checks and encourage volunteering and charitable giving as social norms.
The party’s 'top 20 pledges'
• Simplifying the Gift Aid system to reduce the bureaucratic burden on charities
• Working with charities to sponsor a debate on whether it is possible to establish a new social norm around charitable giving
• Directing support for volunteering through 'real volunteering groups', not government-controlled bodies
• Prioritising development work in 'charity deserts', or areas with few voluntary groups, to establish new volunteer-led organisations where none previously existed
• Supporting efforts to establish regular volunteering as a social norm; leading by example through a volunteer hours scheme for central government employees
• Reducing the burden of regulation on volunteers; improving the system for Criminal Records Bureau checks
• Replacing the Big Lottery Fund with a Voluntary Action Lottery Fund dedicated in its entirety to the voluntary and community sector
• Respecting the difference between grants and contracts; using contracts, rather than grants, only where there is a clear justification
• Operating a genuine one-stop funding portal for statutory grants
• Setting up a funding 'passport scheme' so that voluntary organisations can bypass repetitive grant application and contract tendering bureaucracy
• Drawing up model grant and contract agreements to minimise bureaucracy facing voluntary organisations seeking funds
• Creating a network of social enterprise zones to provide incentives for social investment in deprived communities
• Setting up a Social Investment Bank as a wholesaler of 'patient capital' to a wide range of social investment institutions
• Allowing voluntary organisations delivering public services to earn a competitive return on investment by sharing substantially in the rewards that come from success
• Offering multi-year funding terms on contracts and grant agreements
• Removing the interference and bureaucracy of state funding by agreeing on goals, not dictating methods of delivery
• Agreeing and implementing a co-operative action plan that would empower co-ops and enable them to play a much bigger role in running and owning community assets and services
• Creating a powerful 'Office for Civil Society' at the heart of government to fight for the interests of charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and community groups
• Ensuring proper democratic scrutiny of government policy towards the voluntary sector, led by a new civil society select committee
• Enforcing an improved version of the Compact on relations between government and the voluntary sector