The Welsh government could put more pressure on local authorities that don’t have local compacts to put them in place, according to a new report.
The Compact is a voluntary agreement that sets out how public and third sector bodies should behave towards each other and has been adopted by many councils at local level.
Wales is the only nation in the UK that has a national Compact with a statutory basis. The Welsh government commissioned the consultancy Practical Wisdom R2Z and research organisation Wavehill to look into whether it should introduce a requirement for local authorities to establish local compacts.
The report based on this research, The Case for Statutory Compacts between Welsh Local Authorities and the Third Sector, was published this week. It says a series of case studies and interviews found that the process of implementing local Compacts had not been smooth and not all local authorities had adopted Compacts, despite all the work on the issues since 1998.
"There are signs that some of the impetus has been lost," says the report, which was written by the research consultants Colin Rochester and Meta Zimmeck. "The picture which emerges from aggregate data is not one of progressive adoption of key components and cross-local authority harmonisation, but of gentle atrophy."
But it says that "among the nations of the UK, Wales has been exceptional in its commitment to and promotion of the Compact way of working".
The paper says that some interviewees felt it would be inappropriate for statutory force to be applied to local Compacts, and that coercion should not be applied to what should be a voluntary agreement. Some also felt it could result in the compact becoming a "tick-box exercise".
But others said that introducing this statutory requirement would force those local authorities that had so far failed to engage in Compact working to "come to the table", and that it could offer long-term stability.
The paper says that the Welsh government should make better use of its powers to put more pressure on the minority of local authorities that had not implemented local Compacts. "This will serve notice on the Compact world that this is the last step before turning to more heavy-duty methods," it says.
Zimmeck told Third Sector she believed that the government would now have a major consultation with the voluntary sector, and that the findings of the report would be fed into this.
A Welsh government spokesman said Huw Lewis had been appointed as minister for communities and tackling poverty only last week so he would not be making any comment on the report until he had had a chance to get his feet under the table.