Voluntary sector umbrella organisations have expressed disappointment at the government’s decision not to invite voluntary sector bodies to take part in negotiations over setting up new public-private partnerships to boost local economies.
The government contacted local authority leaders regarding the establishment of local enterprise partnerships to replace regional development agencies.
The letter, sent to council chiefs in July and signed by the business secretary Vince Cable and the communities secretary Eric Pickles, said the government was keen to encourage local businesses and councils to work together to develop proposals for LEPs.
But the letter did not extend the invitation to voluntary sector organisations.
Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said it was disappointing that the voluntary sector had not been invited to take part.
"The sector has wide-ranging experience of delivering tailored and innovative services at the heart of communities, and as a major employer and contributor to the economy", he said.
"We will be seeking clarification that the sector will be involved in these discussions going forward."
Neil Cleeveley, policy and communications director at the local umbrella body Navca, said it was "deeply misguided" to omit the voluntary sector from negotiations regarding the establishment of LEPs.
"Local voluntary organisations make a huge contribution in real terms and through added value via volunteering – it’s nonsense for them not to be involved and it reflects the view that there is no economic contribution from the voluntary sector when clearly there is," he said.
A spokeswoman for BIS said councils and local businesses would decide whether the voluntary sector would be invited to take part in negotiations regarding LEPs.
"It will be up to partnerships to consider which key local economic partners they should be working with to drive growth across their area," she said.