Public services should not become a battleground between the state, the private sector and charities, according to third sector minister Ed Miliband.
Speaking at the NCVO's annual Hinton Lecture last week, Miliband said that neither the voluntary sector nor government could achieve change in isolation and that government and the third sector should be "partners in changing society".
Miliband said the voluntary sector brought qualities to services and society that the state did not. But he added: "I think there are things that the state can provide that the voluntary sector cannot."
Although charities contributed crucial qualities such as innovation, engagement with users and a unique ethos, the state provided universality and equity of services, Miliband argued.
"In general, whatever the level of innovation provided by the sector, it takes government to guarantee public services are available to all who need them," he said.
He added that state involvement in public services was necessary because government provided some accountability to voters. "The fact that politicians are elected nationally and locally is very important," he said.
Miliband admitted that partnership hadn't always worked well in the past.
For government and the sector to become "better fiances", he said, changes needed to be made to funding arrangements and consultation procedures.
Miliband said he thought more charities would deliver public services in future, but he added that the public sector should adopt some third sector qualities.
"Through greater third sector delivery and reforming the way the state itself delivers, we need a state that meets the tests of respect and engagement," he said.
- See My Week, page 52.