The proportion of local infrastructure bodies that are expecting to merge in the next year has risen in the past 12 months, a survey by the umbrella body Navca has found.
The survey, which received responses from 102 infrastructure organisations – about a third of Navca’s members – found that the proportion of those that said they expected to merge in the next year had risen from 9 per cent in 2012 to 15 per cent this year.
Sixty per cent said they did not plan to merge and the other 25 per cent said they did not know.
The report containing the figures says that although uncertainty about merging had fallen from 2011, when 43 per cent said they did not know whether they would merge, "comments suggest that there is an appetite for merging and for closer partnership working, albeit with numerous practical difficulties".
"As well as organisational mergers, members reported looking at other ways to increase collaboration, including joint working, shared posts and merging areas of work," the report says.
According to the report, more than half of respondents said they were supporting the local implementation of social value legislation introduced last year, but only 2 per cent said that there was a "good, joined-up approach" between the voluntary sector and commissioning bodies.
The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which came into effect earlier this year, requires commissioners of public services to take into account of "economic, social and environmental wellbeing" when seeking to purchase services from suppliers.
Most chief officers said that social value was either in its early stages or "patchy". A further 38 per cent said that there was local approach.
Charging for membership and services was another key issue: 58 per cent of respondents said that charging for their services was an important income stream and 63 per cent said they had a charging policy.
But many said they were concerned by the ability of smaller voluntary organisations to pay, and there was unease about charging for core support services, the report says.