Angela Smith silence 'casts doubt over Compact relaunch'

Compact Voice asks whether it is sensible to launch new agreement without assurance that it will not be broken by the Government

Compact Voice has questioned whether this month's launch of the refreshed Compact should go ahead without an assurance from third sector minister Angela Smith that she would not breach the agreement again.

The organisation, which represents the voluntary sector on Compact issues, wrote to Smith last week asking her to make a public commitment not to breach the agreement again. It has not yet received a response.

The letter was put together in response to Smith's breach of the Compact last month when she suddenly scrapped the £750,000 Campaigning Research Programme without consultation. Thirty-two campaigning organisations that had been pledged grants had their funding withdrawn and the money was added to the £16.7m Hardship Fund.

An updated version of the Compact, which outlines how the public and voluntary sectors should behave towards each other, is due to be unveiled on 16 December. Smith is among the signatories.

But Tom Elkins, manager of Compact Voice, said: "At this critical time for the Compact, the minister's continued silence on this issue remains deeply disturbing.

"The Compact partnership organisations are currently finalising the document and making every effort to deliver a new Compact that recognises the diverse needs of both sectors," he said. "However, many stakeholders will rightly be concerned that this issue overshadows the intended launch later this month.

"We cannot help but question whether it is sensible to launch the new Compact at this time without concrete reassurances from the minister that she remains committed to it."

In a written response to a parliamentary question tabled by Labour MP Tom Levitt yesterday, Smith said the Government remained "fully committed to championing the Compact".

A spokesman for the Office of the Third Sector told Third Sector: "The minister has repeatedly reinforced her commitment to the Compact in all statements and correspondence. She is committed to working with partners, such as Compact Voice, to make the refreshed Compact a success."

But a spokesman for Compact Voice said the minister's statements did not go far enough and that there was a difference between committing to the Compact and pledging not to breach it again. "We want concrete and demonstrable assurances," he said.


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