NCVO: No further devolution deals without local charities’ involvement

Government should not sign any further devolution deals unless areas can show how the voluntary sector has been involved in development and can be involved in implementation, charity representative body the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) says.

Joining calls for greater transparency in devolution, NCVO said that proof of the involvement of the local voluntary sector should be among clear, published criteria by which future devolution proposals are assessed.

Currently there are no published criteria for how devolution deals are made by central government, leaving it unclear whether consultation by local authorities with local charities, businesses and other groups is necessary or valued.

With their extensive reach into different communities, engaging charities ensures that the needs and views of the widest possible selection of the public are heard.

In a new report today[1], NCVO proposes that those criteria should include:

  • minimum standards for engagement with the voluntary sector as well as other local stakeholders
  • plans that show how the voluntary sector will be involved in the implementation of new powers.

NCVO has found that very few charities report having been involved in discussions about devolution in their area. This means lost potential for radically redesigned services more tailored to local communities, one of the key promises of devolution.

Both local authorities and local charities need to work harder to ensure that communities are fully involved in devolution deals in order to maximise their benefits.

Karl Wilding, director of public policy at NCVO, said:

So far, devolution seems like a missed opportunity to involve many of those to whom it was meant to return power. If devolution just centralises power in town halls then we’re destined to continue the disillusionment and disengagement of old.

There are great opportunities in devolution for charities to play a bigger role and help ensure that authorities get and use the powers they need to best serve all their communities. We’d like to see local authorities involving the voluntary sector from the very start of the devolution process in order to ensure the voices of all communities are heard and to make the most of these opportunities.

We’re also concerned that the current focus on economic development comes at the expense of public service reforms, meaning some of the potential for reshaping services around community needs and assets is lost.

I’m hopeful the agreement by government of devolution deals in future will be far more transparent and collaborative. The prime minister has been clear that she expects the state to do more to work with voluntary sector as part of her shared society vision, and we look forward to helping put this into practice.

Ends

1. Local needs, local voices: building devolution from the ground up, NCVO, 3 March 2017 (PDF 920KB)

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