Compact in action: Revising the codes of practice

The Compact's funding code has not kept pace with changes in the voluntary sector.

The Compact is 10 years old in 2008, and the voluntary sector landscape has changed considerably since Tony Blair first committed the Government to the agreement. However, the document itself has not kept pace with the changes and there is a growing feeling among some in the sector that it needs revising.

The funding code is being looked at particularly closely. The national Compact's funding code does not even refer to procurement, which has become a key issue as more and more local authorities switch from awarding grants to contracts.

Many local Compacts are also looking a bit jaded. London and Suffolk took the opportunity to inject fresh vigour into their agreements in November by holding relaunch events. The one in London was staged primarily to try to sign up public sector organisations that operate across the capital yet do not fall within the remit of borough-wide Compacts.

Suffolk, however, realised its funding code had become obsolete and replaced it with a 16-page funding and procurement code that sets out how charities and their public sector funders should behave towards one another.

"Funding is a big deal in Suffolk and we felt the Compact needed to show that," says Laura Hack, Compact officer for Suffolk. The new code includes agreements on issues such as full cost recovery and the need for long-term planning. "It took us a year to reach agreement because funding is such a bone of contention," says Hack, whose salary is paid by Suffolk County Council and the local primary care trust.

The Compact Commission will now examine whether the national Compact codes need changing. "We are very aware that the Compact needs to be relevant to the environment of commissioning," says Helen Baker, interim Compact Commissioner.

"We are therefore taking every opportunity to talk to all stakeholders about how the code could be adapted to increase its relevance and responsiveness to the rapid changes in funding and procurement practice.

"Our objective is greater implementation of the code. Although a review is one option, it is only one, and we will evaluate carefully which is the best way to achieve the objective."

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