Comment: Kevin Curley says the white paper is only the beginning

Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca

The local government white paper is exceptionally good news for local voluntary and community sector groups. So much of what we called for is in there - it seems the Government has got the message. Our only reservation is whether we can be confident the proposed measures will become reality.

Rhetoric of a new settlement by central and local government with communities has been backed by radical proposals. The potential transfer of under-used local government assets to communities, the 'Community Call for Action' to challenge councils, and greater support and encouragement for tenant management organisations are positive developments.

We welcome proposals to establish standards for local third sector organisations to organise themselves, and we look forward to working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to set those standards. The white paper repeatedly stresses that local voluntary and community groups should be more involved in Local Strategic Partnerships and with local authorities in service commissioning and other matters. Local voluntary and community groups will be given a central role in triggering 'local charters' to set minimum service standards.

But this is the beginning of the journey, not the end of the road. These measures are not yet on the statute book, let alone implemented by local authorities. And the white paper commits government departments to report as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review process on how to devolve powers and resources further. This could be an important process for our sector.

It feels as if we have achieved one objective - persuading the Government of the value of the local third sector. It, in turn, is setting out to convince local government. We would like more councils to engage with the local voluntary and community sector, help build its capacity to provide services and get involved in designing services through user involvement.

Let's not kid ourselves, though. Not all councils are yet convinced.

The lobbying must now focus on local government.

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