Editorial: Sector takes some hits in quango cull

Capacitybuilders and Commission for the Compact are among the quangos to be axed, but what will the effect on the sector be, asks Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

It was hardly a great surprise to find a number of third sector organisations on the leaked list of quangos that the government plans to abolish.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, is in charge of the cull and it would have been hard for him to ask other ministers to offer up their victims without bringing out a few of his own.

The writing had, in any case, been on the wall for the Office for Civil Society Advisory Body and, to some extent, for Capacitybuilders too. It was never very clear what the advisory body did, not least because it swore itself to silence. To a cuts-hungry government, it probably looked like too much of a cosy Labour creation.

The loss of Capacitybuilders is a more worrying prospect. The infrastructure body has been through a lot of turmoil and controversy and got a scathing report from the National Audit Office in February last year. But it had a budget of £90m over three years and was finding new ways to channel this to the front line through initiatives such as Improving Reach. We need to hear from the government how its commitment to strengthening local voluntary groups is compatible with this decision.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is getting rid of the Commission for the Compact. The Conservatives, before and since the election, have always professed their support for the agreement as a way of making the relationship between the sector and the state more equitable. Labour had been edging towards possible statutory powers for the commission to make it accountable to Parliament and to investigate breaches of the Compact.

Abolishing this key Compact advocate clearly knocks any possibility of statutory powers on the head. The consequence will be that the Compact becomes a document negotiated between the sector, as represented by Compact Voice, and the government. No prizes for guessing who'll call the tune.

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