'Don't let charities bid for services' - Amicus

Trade union Amicus has urged the Treasury to bar voluntary and private sector organisations from bidding for public sector contracts.

The union last week met Stephen Timms, the chief secretary to the Treasury, to try to persuade him to abandon procurement processes that allow charities to bid. It claims the competition leads to a deterioration in services for users and in conditions for staff.

"The most cost-effective bid wins the contract," Rachael Maskell, national officer at Amicus, told Third Sector. "Organisations cut back on terms and conditions to shave off margins."

She said some of its voluntary sector members had complained about a decline in their working conditions because charities were cutting corners to produce competitive bids. The union wanted a more collaborative approach.

"If all stakeholders met to decide what the service is, what the cost is and how they are going to deliver it, that gives greater consideration to the actual service rather than placing the emphasis on the procurement process," Maskell said.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said: "Amicus is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. We should focus on what public services are there for - providing a service to communities."

He refuted Maskell's claim that staff working for charities delivering public services saw any decline in their working conditions.

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