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LGA: Charities must be part of the devolution conversation

Greater engagement is needed between councils and charities for both parties to get the most from future devolution, local authority leaders have stated. 

The call comes following a consultation from the Charities Select Committee that said that the third sector needed strong support from government, regulators and their beneficiaries to have the greatest impact addressing social problems. 

Specifically, the committee recommended that more support should be put in place for the core cost of charities, and that the government and charity commission should look to engage with the third sector and make it clear that regulations are not there to suppress the important work that charities undertake as campaigners. 

“Charities are the lifeblood of society,” chairman of the committee, Baroness Pitkeathley said. “They play a fundamental role in our civil life and do so despite facing a multitude of challenges. Yet for them to continue to flourish, it is clear that they must be supported and promoted.” 

The chairman also warned that the innovative work being done by charities was at risk of being stifled by the “contract culture” that they often find themselves caught up in. 

“While advocacy is a sign of a healthy democracy, and is a central part of charities’ role, this role has been threatened by government,” she argued. 

Engaging charities with future devolution 

Responding to the report, the LGA echoed the point that devolution had to be pushed further than just driving economic growth, and look to support public services. 

This is a point that has already been emphasised when earlier this month the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said that Whitehall should refuse to approve any devo deal where the third sector had not been sufficiently consulted about changes.

An LGA spokesperson said: “Devolution provides a key opportunity for councils to build more homes, create jobs, improve health and care provision for the most vulnerable and tailor local public services to better meet the needs of residents and businesses.

“While most of the deals agreed so far have focused on driving economic growth, councils have been consistently clear that devolution needs to go further and support local public service reform to better tackle issues such as long term unemployment, youth offending and homelessness.” 

The LGA added that the voluntary and charity sector played “a vital role in providing services that address the needs of specific communities and in helping drive increased levels of participation. It stated that as devolution starts to allow local areas greater freedom to shape the design of public services, charities also had to be involved with this process. 

“We would encourage the voluntary sector to engage with the devolution agenda because it stands to provide considerable opportunities for large and small charities alike,” the spokesperson explained. “The LGA has produced a range of tools to support councils’ role in community action and the effective engagement of citizens and this report is a useful addition to an important area of debate.”

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