Voluntary organisations should have the right to challenge local authorities on the running of services if they think they can do them better or for less money, according to Greg Clark, the decentralisation minister.
Clark, the former shadow third sector minister, said in a speech yesterday that the forthcoming Decentralisation and Localism Bill would include a new right of contestability, which will allow organisations to challenge councils to consider new ways of working.
He said this would give groups with good ideas greater freedom to implement them.
Clark is concerned that councils will aim to minimise the effects of budget cuts on their own staff by pruning voluntary sector budgets first.
"The spending review will inevitably present councils with some tough choices in the town hall, but councils must resist any temptation to pull the drawbridge up on the voluntary sector," Clark told an audience of local authority chief executives at a conference in Cardiff.
"Reinforcing monopolies of local services by retrenching into the town hall is not the way forward," he said.
"Opening up more of councils’ budgets to have services carried out by voluntary organisations can improve effectiveness, increase resilience and save costs."