The Office of the Third Sector is to coordinate a powerful new Cabinet sub-committee charged with removing barriers that might prevent third sector organisations winning central government contracts.
Ministers have been invited to join from eight Whitehall departments, including the Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Work and Pensions, and Communities and Local Government. The sub-committee will be supported by an advisory group of third sector representatives and officials from across government, which will meet once a week.
Cabinet committees and sub-committees are smaller groups of ministers that take decisions in the name of the full Cabinet. There are currently about 40 such bodies.
The committee on third sector commissioning will be a 'misc' committee - a sub-committee established for a particular task. It will scrutinise the procurement procedures of different government departments and take action on any identified barriers to sector involvement in public service delivery.
Peter Kyle, deputy chief executive of chief executives body Acevo, described the establishment of the committee as a triumph for the OTS. He said that when he was a special adviser at the Cabinet Office, before he joined Acevo, he saw how effective Cabinet committees could be.
"People focus too much on ministers and not enough on the process of government," he said. "This committee will have real clout and it is not an exaggeration to say that to be coordinating it is a real victory for the OTS. No minister will want to turn up to a meeting with their peers and superiors having not made any progress. It would look bad for them."
He said the DWP's Flexible New Deal contracts should be high on the committee's agenda. Only one UK sector organisation was among the preferred bidders for the 24 prime contracts announced earlier this month.
Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of umbrella group the NCVO, said the committee was long overdue. "Voluntary sector organisations have already identified the many barriers to their involvement in public service delivery," he said. "We now need the committee to tackle the issues and take appropriate action."