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Paper 7 - 29 September 2000 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

29 September 2000

Report by the Chief Executive, Hampshire County Council

RECOMMENDATION

That the Association:

(1) endorses in principle the Hampshire Compact, its undertakings and its aims for future development through the process outlined in the report, and

(2) supports the suggested approach that district councils take account of the Hampshire Compact when developing local district compacts to ensure consistency.

SUMMARY

This report sets out the progress made in developing a Compact between Hampshire County Council and the voluntary and community sector in Hampshire and outlines the plans for consulting on a draft Compact this autumn. It also recommends that local authorities in Hampshire co-ordinate their Compact development activities as far as practicable to promote a consistent approach and avoid confusion.

BACKGROUND

1. All local public bodies need to have effective relationships with the voluntary and community sector at all levels, including small community groups. Everybody will benefit from clarifying and developing a quality relationship that improves partnership working. A Compact is a written understanding that sets out a framework for future working between the two sectors. It is not a legally binding document but derives its authority from endorsement by both sectors and through a process of consultation.

2. In 1998, the Government published its own Compact on Relations between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector in England. The purpose of local Compacts is to enhance the relationship between local authorities and the voluntary and community sector and other partners by creating a new partnership approach based on shared values and mutual respect. Local Compacts offer a means of supporting the development of the voluntary and community sector’s capacity so that independent, accountable organisations can do more to meet both their own aims and those of their statutory partners, thereby enhancing their contribution to the community. They also recognise a shared vision of the need for the development of a democratic, socially inclusive society and that voluntary and community action is fundamental to achieving this.

3. In November 1999, at the annual meeting between the County Council and the voluntary and community sector, both sectors agreed that a local Compact should be developed for Hampshire. In December 1999, the Policy and Resources Committee approved the development of a Compact and nominated two members to represent the County Council on a joint working group.

COMPACTS AND THE MODERNISING AGENDA

4. A local Compact can be an advantage in implementing the modernising agenda. Links can be made with community planning processes; local democratic renewal; scrutiny of service quality and decisions and especially Best Value, and also the new powers of local authorities to promote the social, environmental and economic well-being of their areas. These all point to the need for a more robust and balanced partnership with the voluntary and community sector.

5. In particular, Best Value impacts significantly on the local authority/voluntary and community sector relationship. It affects all voluntary and community organisations which are Council-funded through service level agreements, contracts or grants, or which work in partnership with a local authority or represent community interests.

THE HAMPSHIRE COMPACT WORKING GROUP

6. In early 2000, a joint working group was set up to start work on developing a Compact for Hampshire. The working group is made up of five County Council representatives, including two elected members, five voluntary and community sector representatives and a member of Community Action Hampshire. The working group has met monthly since March to identify and discuss the key issues that need to be addressed by the Compact.

7. In June, the Working Group organised a ‘Vision Day’ with an independent facilitator. Members of the group and a wider group of representatives from both the County Council and the voluntary and community sector attended the event. The aim was to look at the current working relationship and best practice, and how it should be developed in the future. The day was also a catalyst for the drafting of the Compact, identifying key headings and core provisions to be included.

THE DRAFT COMPACT

8. Assisted by the ‘Vision Day’ the working group has now drafted a Compact for Hampshire. This is attached at Appendix 1.

9. The draft Compact is based on some fundamental principles. The County Council recognises and values the independence of the voluntary and community sector. For its part, the voluntary and community sector acknowledges the County Council’s statutory responsibilities, the constraints placed on it by central government directives, and the decision-making role of elected members and their democratic responsibility to balance the needs of everyone in Hampshire, working within the resources available.

10. After setting the document in context, the Compact sets out some common shared aims and principles, and then looks in more detail at:

* information sharing and communication,

* resourcing and accountability (funding, training and premises),

* consultation, and

* monitoring and reviewing the Compact.

11. The aim was to make the Compact short, succinct and useable to ensure that it would be endorsed and adopted by as many voluntary and community sector organisations as possible.

CONSULTATION ON THE DRAFT COMPACT

12. The draft Compact will now be consulted on widely across Hampshire with the aim of involving as many organisations as possible in its development. This involvement will help to create a sense of ownership and encourage organisations to sign up to and adopt the Compact.

13. The draft Compact is being consulted on over a three-month period between September and the beginning of December. Copies have been sent with covering letters to named organisations across the county. The draft is also available on Hantsweb with an electronic response consultation form.

14. Consultees include voluntary and community sector organisations, district councils, parish and town councils, health authorities and primary care groups, further education colleges, Hampshire Constabulary, the Probation and Prison Services, and the Benefits Agency amongst others. Members of the County Council are also being consulted and asked for their views.

15. The Working Group is aware of the possibility that some organisations will receive duplicate copies of the draft Compact, particularly as many of those involved in the voluntary and community sector have dual roles. However, some organisations may not receive a copy at all, as the Group acknowledges that it does not have contacts for all voluntary and community groups in the county.

16. Feedback from the consultation process will be reported back to the annual meeting of the County Council and the voluntary and community sector in November. At that stage it will be possible to assess whether and how much additional drafting work may be needed and whether a further period of consultation with the sector on an amended Compact will be necessary early in the New Year.

CO-ORDINATION BETWEEN LOCAL AUTHORITIES

17. Whilst voluntary and community sector organisations are most likely to want to sign up to the Compact, it is hoped that all district councils in Hampshire will also wish to become involved by signing up to the Hampshire Compact, its principles and undertakings as a result of the county-wide consultation.

18. In the future, those district councils that begin work on developing their own local compact agreements with the voluntary and community sector will be able to use the Hampshire Compact as a template. The County Council will also be able to offer advice and support to other districts and would be willing to participate in any working groups set up locally.

19. Obviously it makes sense that any activity locally to develop relationships with the voluntary and community sector is co-ordinated as far as possible with what is happening within the county as a whole. This will ensure a consistent approach to the working relationship between the two sectors wherever they are based. Compact development work also needs to complement work being done on Community Planning initiatives, to avoid confusion.

FUTURE PLANS

20. It is hoped that the Hampshire Compact will be launched early next year, even if another period of consultation is necessary. The working group has already identified that the next stage of development work should be a code of good practice for funding. Whilst funding is not the only or key issue in the Compact, it is felt that a code would be helpful to both sectors. Further guidance to support the Compact, relating to consultation and to dealing with disputes, is also planned. In fact, the Government’s own Compact is currently supported by two good practice codes, relating to funding and consultation.

21. In addition, the Group is looking at the possibility of developing a database of voluntary and community organisations that both sectors could access. This would log the contact and relationship each County Council department has with organisations together with funding details.

PETER ROBERTSON
Chief Executive, Hampshire County Council

Date: 18 September 2000
Annex: 1
Contact: Sue Wilson - 01962 846011 e-mail cxpusw@cx.hants.gov.uk

Copy of Annex available on request

Last update: 06/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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