30 June 2008 | Paul Snell
Guaranteed long-term contracts for third sector groups providing public services is one of the promises made by the Conservatives in their latest green paper.
Outlining new policies on the role of the voluntary sector, the opposition party said it would commit to deals with the third sector for a minimum of three years. These would be monitored by a revised agreement between the government and the third sector.
The paper said charities had complained that one or two-year deals did not allow them time to provide stability for staff, set up systems, and recoup their investment.
The policy document also pledged to ensure charities and voluntary groups are paid a "fair" price for their work to tackle the view of some public sector commissioners that charities should be cheaper than private sector firms.
It also pledged specifications for contracts would focus on outcomes rather than processes, and more use would be made of model contracts to reduce bureaucracy. It also said a "trust marking" system would be introduced, meaning voluntary sector and social enterprises would only have to be assessed once by commissioners for all tenders.
Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said he was pleased by the proposals: "It's great to see plans to develop our role in transforming public services, reducing regulation and improving contracting. Recognition that we should be making a profit from contracts is spot on."
• The party has also launched a consultation with SMEs to find out how a Conservative government could help improve access to government contracts. The online survey can be found at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=WnGmjf_2bOGdBwAdF1KRos7g_3d_3d