White paper outlines plans for public services procurement

Government says a range of providers including the voluntary sector will be allowed to bid

Nick Hurd
Nick Hurd

The government will publish plans in November on how each department will open up public services to competition, according to a white paper published yesterday.

Open Public Services pledges that a range of providers from the voluntary and private sectors will be able to bid to run services.

The paper says services should be procured at an individual level when possible, at a community level if this is not possible and only at a local authority or national level when absolutely necessary.

The white paper includes several proposals affecting third sector organisations, such as:

- A consultation on a right to appeal for any organisation that feels it has been unfairly treated when attempting to take over a public sector service

- A reduction in the Tupe burdens for those taking on public sector workers as part of a public sector contract

- An ongoing review on VAT barriers that impede organisations, including charities, social enterprises and new mutuals, from taking over public services

Organisations and individuals have until the end of September to respond to the paper.

Nick Hurd, minister for civil society, said his department would shortly publish a "roadmap" that would act as a supplement to the white paper and "inform civil society organisations of the practical new opportunities opening up to deliver these services". A spokesman said the document is expected next week.

Ralph Michell, head of policy at the chief executives body Acevo, said he felt that the document showed "the right direction of travel", but more detail was needed.

"Between now and November, we need the government and individual departments to put flesh on the bones," he said. "And we need them to stand strong in the face of the opposition that they will face from vested interests."

But Ceri Jones, head of policy and research at the Social Enterprise Coalition, said the proposals were likely to lead to a few large national providers rather than the "plurality of provision that the government wants".

She said: "Just opening up services, without thinking about how to develop the supply side, leads to provision by a few large companies," she said. "We've seen it in other services that have been opened up.

"Without access to capital, our sector just can't compete.

"There is talk about how to get more capital into the social enterprise sector with things like social impact bonds, but that's years away. It will be too late by then."

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