Comment: Why the hub replacements trouble me

The announcement last week from Capacitybuilders that it will replace the six outgoing hubs with nine (not four) national support services caused, unsurprisingly, a storm of debate.

John Knight
John Knight

This new format is designed to simplify the system; potentially, these new support services could better target support for building capacity within the sector in key areas.

Nevertheless, some issues continue to trouble me about this transformation and the processes used to achieve it. The consultation on the national support services strategy was not Compact-compliant. Why was this? With debates raging about the impotence of the Compact over compliance, it's baffling that such a high-profile issue was not nailed to the ground. If we can't get our act together when consulting among ourselves, what chance do we have when complaining about the alleged breaches of others?

The tight timetable for the creation of these new support services and the demise of the hubs has also led to Capacitybuilders having just three weeks to produce invitations to tender - and the same time to assess tenders received.

Capacitybuilders claims it does not want to hand the work of the support services to large organisations, but such a short tendering process may well exclude smaller organisations before decisions have even been made.

Will people be losing their jobs over this transition? Where will the pivotal workforce portfolio sit? It has already been suggested that it could be taken under the remit of a sector skills council, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Finally, where is the clear direction needed from the Office of the Third Sector? It is responsible for Capacitybuilders. Any backwash caused by the growing unease over this issue will surely lap at its feet. Arm's length bodies such as Capacitybuilders, which deliver well, are often warmly embraced by ministers. But the well-known ministerial tactic of dissociating yourself from those that don't do so well will not work in this case. The sector is watching and will make its own judgement.

- John Knight is head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire

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