A re-elected Labour government would provide greater support for third sector organisations to deliver public services and plough £75m into a social investment bank, according to the party's manifesto.
The document, written by former third sector minister Ed Miliband and launched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the west midlands today, reconfirms support for the sector in a number of areas, including social enterprise, but makes no new policy pledges.
The party promises to hold consultations on putting the Commission for the Compact on a statutory footing, supporting the transfer of buildings into community control and establishing a National Youth Community Service, under which young people would contribute at least 50 hours' work in their communities by the age of 19.
The manifesto says Labour strongly values the independence of the voluntary and community sector, including its campaigning role. Reform of the Gift Aid system is not mentioned.
Public service delivery
The manifesto says the party would provide "greater support for third sector organisations in competing for public sector contracts, ensuring there is a level playing field with the public and private sectors", although it stops short of any firm commitments.
It says the party would support a role for the "independent sector" – making no distinction between the voluntary and private sectors – in the provision of poorly performing NHS services, but only after NHS staff had been given a chance to improve.
Social investment bank
The document says the planned social investment bank would receive £75m from the proceeds of dormant bank accounts. Previous pledges over the bank, including the details released in last month's Budget, said it would receive "up to £75m".
It also pledges to promote "greater public involvement in the way that National Lottery proceeds are spent on good causes". After the Olympics in 2012, lottery funding that has been diverted to support the project will return, it says.
The document says the Government would support the growth of social enterprise through "the creation of more social enterprise hubs in every community – helping more to get off the ground".
"We will extend the right of public sector workers to request they deliver front-line services through a social enterprise," it says. "Public sector workers in the NHS currently enjoy this right. We will extend this to more public services, including social care, with greater community involvement in their governance."
Cooperatives and mutuals
It also pledges "a new mutualism", saying the party wants to see more local organisations run on cooperative principles through an expansion of the number of community interest companies and mutual organisations.
It promises to promote the use of community shares to enable people to buy a stake in local assets such as football clubs, pubs and shops. British Waterways would become a mutually owned cooperative, it says.
It also pledges to pioneer mutual federations running groups of local children's centres for community benefit.
Social impact bonds
The document also pledges to pioneer social impact bonds, which allow third sector organisations to attract finance for projects backed by the promise of government payouts to bond holders based on their success. The model is already being piloted in Peterborough.