New and shorter Compact out for consultation

Revised document would abolish existing five codes of conduct

The Compact's five codes of conduct would be abolished by a new draft version of the agreement published this week.

The original Compact, which was written in 1998 to outline how the public and voluntary sectors should behave towards each other, is underpinned by codes on funding and procurement, volunteering, consultation and policy appraisal, community groups and black and minority ethnic groups.

The draft new version, which at 56 pages is about a third of the size of the original, replaces the codes with three sections on involvement in policy development, allocating resources and commissioning and achieving equality.

Voice4Change England, which represents about 6,000 black and minority ethnic third sector organisations, said it opposed moving BME commitments into the broader equalities section.

"The BME code exists for a purpose," said Vandna Gohil, director of Voice4Change England. "It recognises there are barriers that don't allow BME organisations to exist on a level playing field."

Andy Forster, head of policy at the Commission for the Compact, said none of the commitments contained in the black and minority ethnic code had been excluded from the new version.

Forster said the Office of the Third Sector and Compact Voice, which represents the voluntary sector on issues relating to the Compact, wanted the codes to become "cross-cutting themes" embedded across the refreshed version.

The draft Compact contains 96 undertakings for signatories, compared with almost 500 in the existing Compact.

Forster said the new version "reflected changes in policy and practice, consolidated undertakings and removed duplication".

Among the main differences of the refreshed version, he said, were that it contained sections on European funding, subcontracting and personalised budgets.

There is confusion on whether money awarded by the European Union should be subject to Compact principles, but the refreshed Compact says they should be applied.

Consultation on the draft version closes on 12 October. A final version will be published during Compact Week from 2 to 8 November.

Sir Bert Massie, Commissioner for the Compact, said: "This is the time for everyone with an interest in the Compact to influence it."

Simon Blake, chair of Compact Voice, said: "This is one of the best opportunities we have to shape the ‘rules of engagement' between government and the sector for the coming years."

A shorter, refreshed Compact was one of two main recommendations to emerge from last year's Compact debate.

The other was for the Commission for the Compact to be given statutory powers. Forster said he had no idea when this was likely to happen and there seems little prospect of progress before the next general election.

Neil Cleeveley, director of policy and communications at local infrastructure group Navca, said: "We want this consultation to result in the Commissioner for the Compact being granted powers to investigate breeches of the Compact and the ability to seek remedies."

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