Compact in action: Compact for Hull steering group

The group is introducing a learning and conciliation code to help resolve disputes before they turn into legal battles.

Leicester, Southall, Cumbria... all have seen Compact disputes escalate into bitter and costly legal battles.

Each row came after a messy breakdown in the relationship between the public and voluntary sectors. The Compact was introduced to prevent such disagreements from snowballing, yet it ended up being used as a tool by lawyers to beat the other party into submission.

To prevent this, the Compact for Hull steering group is introducing a learning and conciliation code so that, when arguments occur, there is a better chance of resolving them before they grow into full-scale disputes.

The Compact steering group is managed by One Hull, the local strategic partnership, and chaired by Kath Jones, chief officer of North Bank Forum, an infrastructure organisation for charities in the Humber sub-region.

Maxine Hunter, Hull Compact officer and a member of the voluntary sector development team at Hull City Council, says the agreement has helped to keep people informed about what's happening as well as improving cross-sector consultation.

She and Jones provide Compact training to local organisations, such as primary care trusts. "The steering group has also written information on the Compact for an induction pack that is sent to every elected councillor," she says.

Some people remain nervous about using the Compact. The learning and conciliation code, according to Hunter, will focus on the benefits of solving problems and stopping them from happening again.

"The idea is that people won't just shout and complain about the Compact if something goes wrong," she says. "If mistakes are made, there is a process to help the two sides get together, look at things and learn from them."

It is hoped the code will be adopted during next month's Compact Week, which is organised by the Commission for the Compact.

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