Tory government would bring in longer-term contracts

Shadow chancellor George Osborne unveils ambitious plans for third sector involvement

The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, has pledged to introduce longer-term contracts and increase the voluntary sector's involvement in welfare-to-work, prisons and health services if the Conservatives win this year's general election.

Speaking on Thursday at the Conservative Party third sector summit organised by chief executives body Acevo, Osborne said the Tories had "considerable and ambitious plans to involve the third sector in much bigger areas of activity".

He cited welfare, prisons and health as areas in which charities could save money and improve services. "Of course, value for money is absolutely a key concern," he said. "But it's also about outcomes."

Osborne said charities could expect four things from a Conservative government: better, clearer commissioning; a more streamlined procurement process; an emphasis on outcomes rather than processes; and longer-term contracts. He said the Work Programme the Tories had designed to replace the New Deal included five-year contracts.

Procurement must not shut out small organisations or involve too many forms, he said. "We will look at pre-qualifying questionnaires and will not expect you to be able to spend weeks filling in procurement forms that government departments spend their whole lives doing," he said.

Francis Maude, the shadow Cabinet Office secretary, said the Government had a "tendency for initiative-itis", which resulted in lots of small funds "spraying money in an unfocused way" and excessive bureaucracy.

Maude also said the Tories would be blind to which sector delivered services, in contrast to health secretary Andy Burnham's pledge to make the NHS the preferred provider of health services. "We should mind only about the outcome," he said.

Acevo has organised summits with all three major political parties to discuss the sector's role in delivering public services.

"Everybody loves the third sector," said Stephen Bubb, chief executive Acevo. "The difficult bit is how we move that rhetoric into reality."

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