The charity sector is a “right old mess” and needs to be prepared to take on more accountability if it is to play a more central role in local service delivery, think tank NPC said at the Labour Party Conference.
Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, was speaking at a fringe event called “How Can Labour Make Great Places” yesterday and said: “The key relationship we are not getting right at the moment is between the government and civil society.”
He said: “It is always a tricky relationship because there are different accountabilities, clearly, and there are different aims, there are different approaches, the governance is very different, the sources are very different, passion is very different.
“The social sector itself is a right old mess. Sometimes called a baggy sort of beast.”
Corry said charities “don’t like each other” and they “compete like mad” but said “we need all the sectors working together to make great places”.
‘Charities like being moaners’
Corry said charities needed to change their attitude to local government if they are to be more involved in service design and delivery at a local level.
“If there is a place that wants to include the voluntary sector, they are asking the voluntary sector to take some accountability for what is going on," he said, but “the default, in my experience, of the charity sector is to rather like moaning at local government.
“They are the guys that either give you the money, in which case you love them, or they don't give you the money and you hate them. They are the ones that don't listen to you, they listen to other people.
“And they quite like being outside and being moaners. And the question is are they up for taking a bigger role.
“So let's say there is a plan for the area and there are certain things that they should do – I'm not just talking about commissioning and contracts, I'm talking about the way they play in to helping to reduce the number of people who are having problems with adult social care or children's services and all the rest of it.
“They have to take some responsibility, I think it is a very big challenge for them.”
Labour ignoring charities
Corry, who was a former head of the Number 10 policy unit and senior adviser to Gordon Brown on the economy, said that the Labour Party “does not pay enough attention” to the charity sector.
He said: “We are quite comfortable with public sector and maybe at times not too keen on the private sector.
“But we tend on the whole to leave civil society alone. We don't think about it, we don't talk about it. There is very little in the 2015 or 2017 manifestos; I hope the next manifesto will have a bit more.”