New fund will help charities bid for big public sector contracts

Futurebuilders England is preparing to launch a new fund to help charities bid for large-scale public sector contracts in coalitions.

Department for Work and Pensions
Department for Work and Pensions

The Consortia Fund is expected to be launched next month and will help charities to increase their capacity to compete with private organisations on large contracts, according to Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of Futurebuilders.

"Charities are talking about a lack of power in their marketplace," he said. "Most charities don't have the size to be main contractors.

"We've started thinking about how we can create structural power within the third sector. Can we help third sector organisations form consortia, merge or form joint ventures?"

Lewis said the problems with a lack of market power had been demonstrated during bidding for the Department for Work and Pensions' Pathways to Work contracts in September last year, when charities found it difficult to compete with large private sector organisations and won only a handful of the contracts on offer.

The contracting process was criticised at the time by Stephen Bubb, head of chief executives body Acevo, who has since become chair of Futurebuilders.

Bubb said that the sector had been "comprehensively stuffed" by the department's contracting system.

Lewis told Third Sector that supporting consortia-building was one of several areas where Futurebuilders and other social lenders could provide strategic thinking to the third sector, rather than simply supporting individual causes.

Futurebuilders, which provides grants and loans to help charities win public service delivery contracts, could not confirm how much money would be available.

ALSO ...

Futurebuilders England has confirmed that after-school care charity Catz Club is the only organisation that has a confidentiality agreement with the organisation preventing details of a terminated loan being revealed.

Futurebuilders has ended its £1.8m loan to the charity, but the terms of the severance agreement forbid either party from revealing the terms.

Confidentiality agreements about Futurebuilders loans were criticised by former shadow charities minister Greg Clark, who said that there should be transparency about public money (8 October, page 3).

Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of Futurebuilders, has said that in future his organisation would consider a confidentiality agreement on a loan only if it was necessary to avoid "undermining the integrity of the fund".

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