Compact in action: Wiltshire County Council

The premature exit of its chair means a leadership void persists at the county's Compact.

Third Sector Online reported in March how some charities in Wiltshire were too afraid to speak out against council Compact breaches for fear of seeing their funding cut (20 March).

The lack of harmony between sectors was largely attributed to a leadership void. The countywide Compact had been led by a series of interim chairs since Ray Jones, director of adult and community services at Wiltshire County Council, stepped down last year. Voluntary organisations wanted someone from within the not-for-profit sector to take charge of the agreement on a full-time basis to ensure their interests were heard.

They got their wish in August when Stephen Hackett, director of development at Sarum College Trust, a faith-based educational charity in Salisbury, was appointed.

"This is the beginning of the next phase of the Wiltshire Compact," said Trevor Hazelgrove, chief executive of Wessex Community Action.

Jacqui Abbott, who helps to facilitate the work of the Compact board for Wiltshire County Council, praised Hackett's "good background knowledge of the voluntary sector and of partnership working". Hackett told Third Sector the fact that he "didn't come with any baggage" may have been one of the reasons why he was selected.

He would not be drawn on concerns about the council's approach to the Compact. He spoke instead about the need to convince more groups to sign up to the agreement and of ways to resource it. But a month into his chairmanship, Hackett accepted a new job outside Wiltshire and resigned. "The timing is less than ideal, but I hope that after this hiccup the Compact will be able to appoint a new chair," he said.

Speaking before Hackett's exit, Abbott insisted the relationship between the public and voluntary sectors was good. "There have been two or three incidents over the past year when the Compact hasn't been adhered to," she says. "But there is a lot of good partnership working."

The recruitment process for a new chair has now begun. Until it is concluded, the Compact in Wiltshire will remain rudderless.

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