ACU undergoes second reshuffle

The Active Community Unit, the government body responsible for relations with the voluntary sector, has been reorganised for the second time in just over a year.

ACU director Helen Edwards has been appointed head of a new Active Community Directorate, overseeing three separate units, one dealing with charity law reform, another with volunteering and the Treasury cross-cutting review, and a third with civil renewal.

Last summer the ACU was relaunched with a brief to focus more comprehensively on the voluntary sector as a whole and its relations with Whitehall departments, rather than just government-sponsored volunteering initiatives such as the Experience Corps. Its budget was also boosted by £60m a year and Edwards, former chief executive of crime reduction charity Nacro, appointed to lead it.

A report from NCVO in 2001 had damned the then ACU, set up by Labour in 1999, as a "disaster".

Under the latest reorganisation Home Office civil servant Richard Weatherhill will head a new charities unit, which will work on the proposed charities bill and government relations with the Charity Commission.

A new Active Community Unit headed by Amobi Modu, former chief executive of Finsbury Park Community Trust, will focus on volunteering issues and targets from the Treasury's cross-cutting review of the voluntary sector and public services.

A Civil Renewal Unit has also been established. This will work to "increase citizens' active and democratic engagement in decisions or activities that affect their lives". The unit has been given £1m to set up a Centre for Active Citizenship, which was announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett in June. It will work to develop policies to strengthen civil society, which can either be introduced by the Home Office or across government.

Its head is Henry Tam, a former local authority chief executive.

Two assistant directorships have also been created. Jamie Thomas, former marketing director with YouthNet UK, will work with the Active Community Unit on volunteering and IT issues. The other assistant directorship, covering sector relations with central government departments and service delivery, has yet to be filled.

Kevin Curley, chief executive of the National Association of Councils for Voluntary Service said: "We welcome the fact that an associate director has been put in charge of volunteering and IT development. But we are very disappointed that the same status hasn't been granted to sector development - the unit run by Tina Jenkins - which works on local infrastructure, capacity building and voluntary sector relations with local authorities."

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