New service to resolve rows with government

Britain experienced its biggest single day of fundraising on Friday when Red Nose Day raised £35.2 million for Comic Relief.

A Home Office-backed scheme to help settle disputes between government departments and voluntary organisations opens its doors today.

The Compact Mediation Scheme, run by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), will bring together warring statutory and voluntary bodies under the auspices of neutral, independent advisers.

The Active Community Unit has awarded CEDR the contract for a year but it can be renewed for a further two. Either government departments or charities can decide to use the service if they feel there is a dispute.

The scheme emerged from recommendations to ministers last year from the Compact Working Group, the body which represents the sector in negotiations with government on developing the Compact, the 1998 agreement which sets out the terms of the relationship between the Government and the voluntary sector.

Apart from being signed up to the Compact, which commits them to mediation if necessary, government departments also have to seek "alternative dispute resolution" which avoids legal action. This is written into all government contracts. However, the Compact Mediation Scheme does not apply to local government.

CEDR Solve, the centre's dispute resolution arm, has been running a mediation service for 12 years, specialising in commercial disputes, and has an 80 per cent success rate, according to chief executive Graham Massie.

He added that the scheme should help the process. "Effective dispute resolution is an integral part of any effective working relationship, and CEDR Solve is therefore pleased to support the further development of mediation use by government and in the voluntary and community sector," he said.

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