Councils 'should hire more charities'

Local authorities need to act on their positive views of the voluntary sector's ability to deliver public services and give more contracts to charities and social enterprises, according to nfpSynergy.

The think tank's first Local Authorities Monitor, which surveyed nearly 900 councillors and officers in England and Wales, found that about two-thirds think charities provide public services as cost-effectively as companies.

Exactly half of officers and 58 per cent of councillors also thought charities could deliver services as cost-effectively as local authorities.

However, local authority staff estimated that charities provided, on average, just 14 per cent of services, compared with 26 per cent by companies. The voluntary sector provides less than 10 per cent of services in 43 per cent of all councils.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said charities should be encouraged by the positive attitudes reflected in the survey, which echoed the recent selection of sector-related National Indicators by 93 of England's 150 top-tier local authorities.

"However, all parties should question the seemingly low uptake of provision by the voluntary sector in a wide range of areas," he said. "The public sector spirit seems willing, yet conversion into charity contracts remains weak. Surely, actions speak louder than words."

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