Council for Voluntary Service Central Lancashire has applied for a judicial review of a decision by the Lancashire-based social enterprise body Selnet to award a contract for a volunteer service to another charity.
The papers, lodged with the Administrative Court on 13 March, say that the CVS believes Selnet’s decision to award the £20,500 contract to provide a volunteer brokerage service in Preston and South Ribble to Age Concern Central Lancashire is flawed because the CVSCL is already providing a similar service funded by its own reserves.
In October last year, Lancashire County Council hired Selnet to award contracts worth £130,000 in total to create a county-wide strategic approach to volunteering.
Six contracts were awarded at the end of the year – five went to CVS organisations and one to Age Concern Central Lancashire.
Joan Burrows, chief officer of CVSCL, told Third Sector that it had provided a volunteer service in the area since 2006 and had been funding this from its reserves since 2011. Last year, the service had 2,849 enquiries about volunteering and 120 organisations registered opportunities, she said.
She said she had asked Selnet why CVSCL was not awarded the contract when the funding decisions were made, but was not satisfied with its response.
A letter from CVSCL to Selnet’s solicitors, Hempsons Manchester, says: "The CVS does not feel that we have received fair treatment and cannot understand how a contract to deliver a volunteer brokerage service has not been awarded to the organisation already providing a successful service, unfunded, in those districts and has, instead, been given to an organisation that has no track record in that area of service."
The letter says that CVSCL has "serious concerns" about the process under which the decision was made.
"We are pursuing a judicial review in an effort to lay bare the reasons why Selnet felt it appropriate to use public money to duplicate a successful and long-standing service and, in conflict with its own objectives, create unneeded competition within the local voluntary sector," it says.
Burrows said she wanted to highlight her organisation’s experience in case other charities had had similar experiences.
Liz Tapner, chief executive of Selnet, said: "I’m advised not to make a comment. We have only recently received the papers – we are considering them now and will file a response in due course."
Linda Chivers, chief executive of Age Concern Central Lancashire, said she was aware CVSCL was seeking a judicial review. She her charity was a well-established local voluntary organisation, with a volunteer force of more than 300 people a year.
"We have a great deal of experience in the recruitment, placement and support of volunteers," she said. "We very much hope that CVSCL will work with us on this project to minimise duplication rather than see it as a competitor."
A spokeswoman for Lancashire County Council said it did not want to comment.