Charity chiefs ask Labour to confirm support for sector

Letter to Chancellor asks for more partnership in public service reforms

More than 250 voluntary sector leaders have today written to Chancellor Alistair Darling proposing a summit to discuss how the Government and the sector can work in partnership "to carry out far-reaching reforms of public services".

The letter, timed to coincide with next week's pre-Budget report, tells Darling that increasing voluntary sector involvement in public services would ease the pressure on public finances and tackle social problems caused by the recession.

"It's an irresistible offer," said Stephen Bubb, leader of charity chief executives body Acevo, which organised the letter. "We can help meet two great objectives: spending less and improving services."

Many signatories are worried that local authorities are preparing to reduce voluntary sector budgets dramatically in the spring.

They are also concerned that Labour's commitment to the delivery of services by charities is waning in the run-up to next year's general election, particularly after health secretary Andy Burnham's recent decision to make the NHS the preferred provider of health services and abandon the party's 'any willing provider' policy.

Bubb told Third Sector that Labour needed to be as "explicit in its support to the sector" as Conservative leader David Cameron had been.

"We want to see a specific proposal on how they will approach the next round of public spending," he said.

The letter is signed by leaders of charities, social enterprises, community organisations and housing associations. It gives examples of how not-for-profit organisations already deliver state services in several areas.

"We are convinced that government could work more effectively with our sector across many further service areas," the letter says. "We urge that in response to the pressures on public spending you work in partnership with our sector to carry out far-reaching reforms of our public services, rather than just top-slicing budgets."

A Treasury spokesman said he was unable to comment until the letter had been received.


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