The Localism Bill and procurement
NAVCA remains busy campaigning to ensure that the Localism Bill delivers what it says on the tin and results in central government power being devolved to local communities. If you want a fuller picture of the Bill, take a look at the dedicated page on our website.
From a commissioning and procurement perspective, I want to focus on one aspect of the Bill, the right to challenge, specifically:
- The right to challenge and procurement
- How the right to challenge may affect the relationship between the voluntary sector and local authorities.
The right to challenge would give voluntary and community bodies, parish councils and local authority employees the right to propose how they might better run a public service. The council would then be required to give it proper consideration. But that doesn't mean the voluntary and community body, parish council or local authority employees would end up actually running the service. Why not?
Because once again EU procurement regulations are likely to come into play and the service is put out to procurement, opening it up to bidders from all sectors across Europe and beyond. As procurement processes and the culture of procurement are often weighted against local voluntary sector organisations, we could see this process resulting in more large private companies delivering local public services. This would not result in localism, and as we are always being told in commissioning, it's the outcome not the process that counts.
The issue has been commented on in the House of Lords, where the Bill continues to be debated and amendments proposed. At last this problem has been noticed, Lord Greaves said recently..
"...There is little or nothing in this chapter about how the process of procurement will work"
"It is still not clear to what extent, if at all, local commissioners will be able to ringfence particular opportunities"
Another area of concern for NAVCA is to what extent the Right to Challenge would erode existing partnerships between the local authority and the local voluntary sector. Again this has been recognised by the aforementioned Lord Greaves..
"The more I hear this debate, the more I am concerned about the word 'challenge'. I think 'challenge' is wrong because it is an adversarial word..."
I agree, the Localism Bill should result in central government power being devolved to local authorities and local communities. It should not result in the relationship between these two groups being eroded while the private sector moves in and profits from it. To ensure real power for communities, join the Real Power for Communities Campaign.
Until next time, Rach