Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland

What do you think was achieved in your meeting last week with Whitehall officials about voluntary sector funding?

My feeling was that the officials were aware of the problems, but not of the urgency of tackling them. Their attitude was very much "oh yes, we know this is a problem and we know this is all very regrettable", but their response was completely bureaucratic, I thought.

What were your main concerns?

My main concern was the funding Compact. It's all very well for them to talk about the Treasury review in 2002, but the funding Compact was written in 1998. That's seven years ago.

What happens, of course, is that officials keep changing jobs, so they turn up and they learn about it and they're all bright-eyed and fresh-faced, but they don't realise - or they behave as if they don't realise - that people have been struggling on with this for years.

So what's your conclusion?

I am left - and I think a lot of members of the committee expressed this - with a concern that it is out of the question to increase significantly the number of public services delivered through the voluntary sector until these problems are cracked.

A National Audit Office report made similar criticisms. Did the officials offer a solution?

I didn't think so, but you'll have to look at the evidence and see what you think.

How do you plan to take this issue forward?

The Public Accounts Committee will do a report in light of the evidence that we heard, with all our comments. They - the government department - will have to then make an official response to that.

Which voluntary organisations have you been involved with?

I have worked at the Runnymede Trust and the Children's Society, and I ran the National Association of Toy and Leisure libraries.

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