Charities should campaign less, says Oliver Letwin

Conservative Party manifesto author says Tories plan 'huge' role for sector in service provision

Some voluntary organisations spend too much of their resources on campaigning and not enough on service provision, according to Oliver Letwin, the author of the Conservative Party's forthcoming election manifesto.

Letwin, MP for West Dorset, told the NCVO's campaigning conference yesterday that a "vast and powerful" sector was necessary to deal with problems that the private sector was unwilling and the state unable to address.

But he said he regretted that "so much of the effort of some parties in the voluntary sector is devoted to campaigning.

"They are free to do it, but what I treasure about the sector isn't its campaigning role. Its special contribution is to do something to change things and solve problems."

He described the voluntary sector as "one of the cornerstones" of what the Conservatives wanted to achieve and pledged that a Tory government would provide sustainable support to enable the sector to work with people the state had been unable to reach.

But he also warned that the burden of reducing the fiscal deficit could not be borne by the sector. "Voluntary organisations and social enterprises can take a leading role in dealing with the social recession, but the economic recession needs to be tackled by government and opening up the UK for business," he said.

Letwin said the Tories would go beyond the Compact, which he said was the product of another era.

"You can't build capital or run a proper social enterprise on the basis of full cost recovery and micromanagement from government," he said. "You need to be able to make a reasonable profit and plough it back into expanding services."

All sector public service delivery should be paid for by results or with grants, he added.

He said the real question was not whether a Conservative government would turn its back on the sector but whether it would ask it to do too much, given its existing capacity.

"The answer to that is 'yes', which is why we are working out how to build the capacity not just of large but also of tiny organisations," he said.

"We need a huge market place of voluntary sector organisations and we need to find ways of replicating things, supporting best practice and increasing access to capital."


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