Compact in action: Wales

The lack of a national scheme has not stopped the Compact thriving in the principality.

Wales is often regarded as the place where the Compact is most effective. One reason for this is the closer ties between the public and voluntary sectors there. And that is partly due to the fact that all 22 Welsh counties have unitary local authorities, which means county voluntary councils have to deal with only one town hall.

According to Tim Day, director of north Wales and policy at umbrella body the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, other factors that have contributed to the Compact's success in Wales include devolved government, a commitment to partnership working and the fact that the Welsh sector is not awash with infrastructure bodies.

"In Wales, the third sector engages with local government right through policy level to delivering policies on the ground, so the sector is well integrated into influencing government policy," he says.

However, Wales does not actually have a national Compact. Instead, it has a voluntary sector scheme that requires the National Assembly for Wales to set out how it proposes to promote the interests of the voluntary sector and to report each year on progress. The scheme also commits ministers to attending twice-yearly meetings, organised by the WCVA, with sector representatives.

The scheme concentrates exclusively on funding. A body called the Voluntary Sector Partnership Council, consisting of members of the National Assembly for Wales and the voluntary sector, monitors the scheme and facilitates consultation.

Compacts do exist at county level. They are usually underpinned by action plans, which are monitored by liaison committees. A WCVA survey revealed that Compacts are in place or being redrafted in all Welsh counties, although one was described as dormant and another as being of limited use.

Day, who in his previous role as chief executive of Watford CVS used to negotiate on Compact issues with town and county councillors in Hertfordshire, thinks the Welsh model is superior to the English one. He explains: "It is clearer who you need to be dealing with. It was less obvious in England who needed to be influenced, who needed to be signed up and when it needed to happen."

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