Public services should be commissioned by a network of local "co-commissioning hubs" made up of voluntary groups, community activists, public sector spin-off mutuals, GP consortia and holders of personalised budgets, according to a new report by the think tank ResPublica.
Its report The Civil Effect, says the local hubs would be a "shop window" for participants, enabling them to work more closely together to organise service delivery. It urges the government to set up a working group on co-commissioning hubs.
"Through shared support from a broader group of civil society actors, the hub would broaden the resources and funding available to civil society organisations and their increasingly cash-strapped support agencies," it says.
The report also calls for a "delivery infrastructure levy" on prime contractors delivering public services in order to fund and support the subcontracting groups. It says commissioners should reassess the rule that 50 per cent of a contract should be delivered by the prime provider.
In addition, it says the government should set up a loan guarantee scheme for third sector organisations delivering public services.
Speaking at the launch of the report at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Asheem Singh, deputy director of ResPublica and author of the report, said: "The way the government works with voluntary groups at the moment is massively over-complicated.
"It tells them what it wants them to do, then sets up a capacity-building infrastructure to train them on how to do it. It should give them more freedom and a greater say in the services they provide."