Compact on the agenda at NCVO Annual Conference
Yesterday, Compact Voice's London-based team attended NCVO's Annual Conference. We delivered a well-received workshop on partnership working (more on that will follow), contributed to a session which gave an overview of the current policy topics affecting the sector, and met various attendees from the sector who visited our stand.
It isn't unusual at conferences to have to explain what the Compact is to delegates who aren't aware of it. They are usually familiar with its principles, though less so their origin. However, yesterday's conference was slightly different: most people I met were aware of the Compact, but many challenged me to convince them why it was still relevant.
These questions were perhaps prompted by Sir Stuart Etherington's speech which featured a number of references to the Compact. He said:
"So, using the Compact and the Best Value Guidance we will tackle disproportionate cuts. But we need you to tell us about them. So spread the message: give us the evidence and NCVO and Compact Voice will help fight your corner.
I urge you too to use the Compact. No. 10 has told every government department that the Compact must be reflected in their business plans. It is one of only 6 cross cutting priorities, up there with growth. This thing is being taken seriously by Government, so let’s stop sniping about it and get behind it."
His words were welcome, and reflected that the Compact can still polarise opinion, particularly where it hasn't been used successfully in the past. So when people asked me why they should get behind it, I was happy to offer the following in support:
- The Compact is a perfect illustration of localism and decentralisation: nationally agreed principles being interpreted based on local need. Compact successes - and failures - can offer a lot of experience to emerging local partnerships.
- The Government wants to take the Compact seriously. We know there have been breaches in how government is working, but it remains committed to strengthening its engagement with the sector through the Compact. The recent announcement from No. 10 about departmental business plans shows a strong intention and we will continue to work with departments to help them get it right.
- New statutory guidance from DCLG and draft guidance from the Department of Health both highlight the role of local Compacts. This embeds the partnerships and principles in many of the new local policies around health and service delivery.
- There is near unanimous support for the principles of the Compact in local areas. We know that it works. We know that it can help frame the beginnings of relationships and provide redress if things go wrong.
These were my arguments in favour of the continued use of the Compact, and the delegates we spoke to seemed persuaded enough to sign up to our newsletter or take one of our publications and give it another look.
Is it working perfectly everywhere? No, but in the last year we have made significant progress in ensuring it has an important part to play locally and nationally. Sir Stuart's speech was well-timed. We have more to do of course, but I think we can now safely say that reports of the Compact’s impending death were exaggerated.