More collaboration and mergers are 'inevitable'

Senior civil servants and sector figures agree that more collaborative working, alliances, acquisitions and mergers in the sector are inevitable in the current economic climate, according to Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo.

Bubb was speaking after an ‘away day' he helped to organise last Friday that brought together 14 permanent secretaries of Government departments, cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell and 15 prominent Acevo members.

Bubb, who gave a speech about the power of the third sector, said there had been general agreement on the need for charities to work more closely together. He said: "We need to think proactively about ways we can be more effective."

Last week, the Charity Commission said it was worried about local councils putting undue pressure to merge on charities that they fund (Third Sector, 1 October, page 1).

Bubb said the permanent secretaries had been surprised by the size of the sector and its potential to help deliver government policy goals. He said: "They know about the role of sector in their area, but this presented an overall picture of what we do in terms of service delivery and citizen engagement."

He said the focus of the discussions had been practicalities rather than policy. Each permanent secretary was paired with a sector figure, such as Clare Tickell from Action for Children and Tony Hawkhead from Groundwork. Each person agreed to do one thing after the event. O'Donnell will be visiting the St Giles Trust.

"There was real interest in secondments and civil servants becoming trustees," Bubb said. "At the very least, some relationships were formed that could prove very useful."

Peter Housden, permanent secretary at the Communities and Local Government department described the event as "absolutely excellent". Campbell Robb, director-general of the Office of the Third Sector, said: "The discussion demonstrated a real commitment from all parties to work together in order to drive forward better public service outcomes."

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