On Friday 21st September, I attended the event organised jointly by Voluntary Action Leeds and Children England to raise awareness of the powers that are now open to local groups and charities under the Localism Act.
Hosted at the St George’s Centre, the event was over-subscribed as local VCS representatives and key staff from Leeds City Council Children’s Services showed their shared willingness to debate the implications of Localism in Leeds.
A series of presentations about the scope and limitations of the Localism Act were interspersed with round-table workshop discussions on the barriers faced by voluntary sector groups in using the Act to challenge the local authority delivery of services and the acquisition of community buildings and resources.
Perhaps Sarah Sinclair (Leeds Council’s Assistant Director for Commissioning) handled the toughest job of the day, as she laid out her department’s plans for engaging with the voluntary sector to make the Localism Act work for Leeds. Fielding difficult questions from the floor, she accepted my concern that without clear, open and freely available information on the existing costs of delivering services ‘in-house’ and the TUPE implications of transferring Council staff, VCS organisations would find it almost impossible to launch a confident and effective challenge under the Act. Sarah confirmed that she had already started the process of ‘opening the books’ to enable third sector organisations to see the real running costs and service delivery standards of Children’s Services. As the spending cuts deepen, we all need this work to progress quickly, before many VCS groups are so starved of cash and resources that they are in no position to be able to offer a more cost-effective and efficient alternative to the Leeds’ taxpayers in the future.
Visit our Campaign pages to see how Leeds Council are performing in the cutting of youth work services.