CBI: 'Give charities more of a role in public service delivery'

Voluntary sector organisations should be free to bid to deliver many more public services, the CBI has said in its recommendations ahead of the comprehensive spending review.

The CBI’s chief demand is that public sector service provision should be scaled back, with government becoming more of a commissioner than a deliverer of services.

Related demands are for markets to be introduced into service provision, and for the public to be more closely involved in the design and delivery of services.

The submission reads: “Instead of trying to deliver everything, government should take a strategic view of those services it can provide directly while increasingly commissioning other bodies to deliver the rest. This will also introduce mechanisms and incentives to improve services and swift consequences for failure.”

The CBI’s chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said that increasing global mobility of capital and labour would place more pressure on governments to keep taxes low. “For the comprehensive spending review to be credible and sustainable over the medium term it needs to acknowledge these growing pressures on the public finances and set out a strategy to reconcile them,” he said.

However, a spokesman denied that the focus of commissioning should be solely on cost. “We don’t think there should be less money spent,” he said. “We think there are huge savings that could be made through greater efficiencies such as sharing services. We want greater value for money, which is in the best interests of service users.”

He also denied that voluntary sector organisations would inevitably lose out to private firms in a commissioning free-for-all. “We don’t think it should be about squeezing people out,” he said. “It is true that some voluntary sector organisations don’t have the big infrastructure that some firms do, but we are up for private-voluntary partnerships, especially in social care and probation services. It would be crazy not to use voluntary sector expertise. There shouldn’t be a culture clash with good commissioning.”

He said some of the measures the CBI is calling for are already happening in a piecemeal way, but government lacked the ambition to take them further. “We need a more comprehensive and strategic approach, and the CSR is the perfect opportunity to look at these issues,” he said.

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