Blair sets service provision target

Mathew Little

Prime Minister Tony Blair has set a one-year deadline for the attainment of a "step change" in the provision of public services by third sector organisations.

In a related development, organisations representing charities, co-operatives, housing associations, trade unions and social enterprises have united to form the Third Sector Network.

Writing to new Cabinet Office minister Hilary Armstrong, whose department contains the new office of the third sector, Blair said he wanted firm commitments from key departments by the summer and an implementation plan published in the autumn.

Blair also said "it will be important to see the Charities Bill through Parliament in the current session", which ends in November.

The letter charged third sector minister Ed Miliband with leading the third sector review announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in this year's Budget and ensuring recommendations are integrated into the 2007 comprehensive spending review.

Armstrong was also given instructions to get a million more young people volunteering within five years and to aim at "it becoming the norm for people to give a percentage of their income to good causes in a tax-efficient manner".

The Third Sector Network will attempt to influence the Government's review of the sector and its role in social and economic regeneration.

Ministers have promised to carry out the largest-ever consultation with sector organisations. "Policy is being directed at the wider sector," said Belinda Pratten, senior policy officer at the NCVO. "This is a chance to say how we define ourselves rather than letting the Government define us."

Members include the NCVO, the Social Enterprise Coalition, Co-operatives UK, the Trades Union Congress and the National Housing Federation.

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