The Cabinet Office has updated its principles on procuring services from providers to include a new section which outlines its commitment to the principles of the Compact and to ensure social value in public service delivery.
The Procurement Pledge - the official document outlining these commitments - now includes three paragraphs confirming that it is "strongly committed to the principles of the Compact between the coalition and civil society organisations" and recognising the potential for contribution from the voluntary and community sector "to meaningfully contribute to improving the design and delivery of services, and provide social as well as economic value".
In May, the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (Navca) dismissed the Procurement Pledge on the basis it placed too much emphasis of the private sector. It instead confirmed its allegiance with a Local Government Association pledge which it said "is much more voluntary sector-friendly".
Compact Voice, which worked in partnership with the Cabinet Office to cement its new commitment, and which includes Navca's directory of policy and communications Neil Cleevely in its board, welcomed the amendment. Simon Blake, chair of Compact Voice said:
"We are delighted that the government's commitment to Compact principles has now been explicitly linked to the Procurement Pledge. These changes also clarify the important role of the voluntary sector, which is a key player in the potential provision of services."
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), added: “This is a great result and Compact Voice are to be congratulated for presenting a strong case for mentions of the voluntary sector in the Procurement Pledge to be enhanced and clarified. It is encouraging to see the government reiterating its commitment to Compact Principles and recognising the valuable role that voluntary organisations can play in the design and delivery of services.”
In Parliament this week minister for civil society Nick Hurd (pictured) was put under pressure by his shadow minister Gareth Thomas who questioned the Cabinet Office commitment to the Compact and challenged its implementation within the National Citizen Service.
"This government views the Compact with great importance," Hurd responded. "Good progress is being made and the Compact has now been included as one of only six cross-Whitehall priorities in Departmental Business plans.
"The delivery of NCS will uphold the undertakings outlined in the National Compact," he confirmed.
The National Compact, launched in 1998, outlines the agreement between the government and civil society organisations in England to work together for mutual benefit. Most local authorities in England also have local Compacts outlining these commitments at a local level. Compact Voice, with a membership of 2,500 including Acevo, NCVO, Navca, Social Enterprise UK and the British Red Cross, are co-signatories on the National Compact.
The matter of the charity sector's role in procurement is also being championed at European level by umbrella bodies including Navca. EU negotiations on procurement roles are currently at around the halfway point and the latest update was published on 24 August. More on this can be found on Navca's website.