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Acevo document outlines frustrations of members with local authorities on contracts

By David Ainsworth, Third Sector Online, 4 March 2013

Acevo document outlines frustrations of members with local authorities on contracts

Chief executives body hears of one council that requires handwritten contract applications from charities on the grounds that it combats fraud

One local authority requires charities to submit handwritten contract applications. Another is so badly informed it is not aware of a service it has itself commissioned.

These examples are in a document drawn up by the chief executives body Acevo, based on submissions from members, which it will use for discussions on commissioning with local and central government representatives.

The document says that one council, which it does not name, asked charities to submit handwritten application forms for contracts because of what the document describes as "the spurious reason that it would help to prevent fraud".

According to Acevo, the document contains evidence of local authorities demanding sole authority to dismiss voluntary sector service providers’ staff members and carrying out "reverse auctions" in which contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, regardless of quality. There are also examples, according to Acevo, of public sector commissioners cutting project budgets by 25 per cent for services where the number of beneficiaries have risen by almost 50 per cent.

"Commissioning processes are often opaque from the point of view of providers, leading to suspicions of favouritism and preferential treatment for well-connected providers," the document says. "In addition, some local authorities take little or no interest in monitoring smaller services post-tender, or providing any feedback to providers.

"On one recent occasion, an Acevo member’s organisation, which had been providing a service for many years, spoke to local commissioners who were not even aware the service existed."

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