Local politicians are 'villains' in commissioning, says Navca chief

Councillors should stop small charities being sidelined, Kevin Curley tells Children England conference

Local politicians must rein in commissioning officers, whose use of "crude competitive tendering" has resulted in the unintended destruction of local organisations, according to Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca.

The head of the local umbrella body told a Children England conference in London last week that it was wrong to assume competitive tendering automatically improved services.

"Those who argue that size is irrelevant are invariably people who run large organisations," he said. "Big is not always ugly, but small is certainly often beautiful. Small organisations are fundamentally democratic: an expression of our freedom to form new associations for community benefit."

Curley described competitive tendering as a "very blunt instrument" to improve standards, highlighting recent cases in which Home-Start organisations, which provide support to families, lost out to large national children's charities, Women's Aid refuges to generic housing associations and Citizens Advice bureaux to private companies.

"It is nothing short of madness to allow organisations like these to be extinguished in the name of European procurement regulations and competition law, and you can stop it happening," he said.

Local politicians, rather than large charities or private firms, were the villains of the piece, he said. "Leading councillors are often shocked at the consequences of procurement processes they have unleashed. Politicians should be deciding priorities and shaping local services, not letting the procurement process undermine their leadership role."

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