Election '05: Optimism at Labour manifesto

Chief executives body Acevo has described the Labour manifesto as "potentially a big step forward" as the first to have spelled out areas of service delivery in which a government would encourage the voluntary sector to take a larger role.

Head of policy Nick Aldridge said past manifestoes talked about the need for giving and paid tribute to the sector, but the latest one commits Labour to considering the sector on "equal terms" as a public service provider. Acevo has seized on the document as a boost to its mandate to champion its Surer Funding campaign for better contracts.

"Take employment training," said Aldridge. "Three million people are on long-term incapacity benefit and JobCentre Plus has failed to give them any help. Charities such as Tomorrow's People and the Shaw Trust have made much more progress, but their contracts are so bad they are not winning much more of the market."

He added that Acevo was disappointed not to see any mention in the Conservative manifesto of the party's Workfirst proposal on empowering the jobless.

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