Durning Report: hubs should lose commissioning powers

The national hubs of expertise should be given a more limited role as centres of excellence promoting best practice, according to Jo Durning's report on the future of the ChangeUp infrastructure programme.

The former senior civil servant recommended that Capacitybuilders should commission national infrastructure programmes for local groups, with the hubs reduced to the "dissemination and exchange" of best practice funded by "small budgets".

She also proposed that the Volunteering Hub be abolished and that Volunteering England be commissioned to deliver a national volunteering programme.

"The review considers that delivery through central commissioning would offer a better basis for delivering ChangeUp targets than current arrangements," wrote Durning.

She conceded that the plan is "opposed by the hubs and engaged stakeholders".

Ben Kernighan, director of services and development at NCVO, which hosts four hubs, said he was concerned about Capacitybuilders, as a government agency, commissioning directly. "Capacitybuilders would need to increase its own funding at the expense of the sector, without this decision being open to external scrutiny," he said.

Nick Aldridge, head of policy at Acevo, said the status quo was not the way forward. "The hubs have too many hats on - prioritisation, commissioning and delivery," he said. "They have done useful work, but it's been a struggle. It's hard to say which option is right, but the need for stronger leadership is recognised."

The Capacitybuilders board will consider Durning's preferred option and the alternative of improving the system, possibly with fewer hubs. Durning warned the latter "would not resolve the tensions within the hub remits".

Simon Hebditch, chief executive of Capacitybuilders, will examine the options and report to the board on 22 November.

Hebditch said: "Staying as we are is not an option. The only question is what change would help us best meet our objectives."

The board rejected a third option to turn Capacitybuilders into a development agency for the sector.

- See News, page 5, and Editorial, page 13.

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