Sector must have say on local strategy, says NCVO

The NCVO is lobbying peers to amend the Local Government Bill to include a provision requiring local authorities to consult voluntary sector partners when drawing up strategies for their local areas.

The umbrella organisation argues that the bill, in its current form, does not require local authorities by law to discuss with non- statutory partners strategies such as Local Area Agreements - the three-year policy documents that set out priorities for their local areas.

It requires local government to consult only "such other persons as appear to it to be appropriate". The NCVO argues that this is not enough.

"The relationship that local authorities have with their local voluntary and community sector is a central one," said Sultana Begum, parliamentary and campaigns officer at the NCVO. "Of course there are some local authorities that work very well with the sector, but there are others that don't."

The NCVO is trying to secure backing for amendments to clauses 108 and 116 of the bill, which refer to drawing up Local Area Agreements and sustainable community strategies.

"We'd like to ensure that the voluntary sector is included in those processes," said Begum.

So far, she said, the Government had been reluctant to include on the face of the bill a statutory requirement to consult the sector.

"We want local government minister Phil Woolas to put his money where his mouth is," she said. "There's no reason for that not to happen."

Begum added that Labour peer Alf Dubs had agreed to raise some of the problems during the bill's second reading in the House of Lords today.

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