Agenda item

Scrutiny Inquiry - Voluntary Community and Faith Sector in Leeds - Session 2

To consider the attached report of the Head of Scrutiny and Member Development


Further to Minute 20, 25th September 2008, the Chair introduced Session 2 of the Board’s Inquiry into issues surrounding the operation of the Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector (VCFS) in Leeds and welcomed to the meeting the following witnesses, who gave presentations on the work of their organisations and responded to Members’ queries and comments on various issues, including the Council’s interaction with the VCFS in Leeds:-


Lisa Wright, Director, Leeds VOICE

Louise Megson, Chief Executive, St Luke’s CARES

Judith Hickman, Operations Manager and Richard Lancaster, Priority Neighbourhood Worker, South Leeds Health for All.


In brief summary, the main issues arising during the discussion were:-


·  The invaluable work done across the City by VCFS organisations, over 3,000  of which were affiliated to Leeds VOICE;

·  The professionalism of those VCFS organisations and the immense involvement of local volunteers in them;

·  The marked move in recent years away from a ‘grants culture’ to a service commissioning and outcomes-based system, with local VCFS organisations recognised and acknowledged as vital partners in a wide range of complex and comprehensive service provision, including the planning and implementation of those services;

·  The good relationship which already existed between the Council and VCFS in Leeds, and the valuable support already provided by the Council;

·  That in spite of this good relationship and partnership working, there was still more which could be done  to break down obstacles and to assist VCFS organisations;

·  Although some Council services were already fully engaged and had recognised the value of involving VCFS at an initial state (example Children’s Services Commissioning Board), there were other areas, where the VCFS were not involved, or where the degree of involvement and communication were minimal (examples community safety and housing);

·  Sustainability of VCFS organisations and projects was raised. VCFS organisations were highly vulnerable to financial variables, even the most professional of them. The Council funding projects for only a period of 12 months was a concern. By the time the project was established and staff recruited and trained, in reality you only got six months useful output from that project. The Council needed to look to 3-5 year funding schemes, with properly thought out and executed exit strategies, and other initiatives such as ‘Trusted Partner Status’ for certain VCFS organisations which had proved their worth;

·  Application processes for access to Council funding needed to be proportionate, and the Council also needed to provide more advice and support for local VCFS organisations wishing to apply;

·  The ‘Compact for Leeds’ provided a useful framework document to outline the respective roles of the Council and the VCFS and the expectations of each relative to the other. All partner organisations could self-assess awareness and compliance with the Compact Codes of Conduct;

·  A gap was identified in terms of service provision for 8-13 year olds and this was where consultation with local VCFS organisations was vital, to identify local needs and solutions;

·  The national influence of third sector funding;

·  The role which Area Committees could play in improving and enhancing links with local VCFS organisations,  by promoting initiatives such as the Extended Schools programme, for example;

·  A possible visit by Board Members to the Smoothie Bar, established by St Luke’s CARES, was suggested, the Principal Scrutiny Adviser to canvass Members:

·  The Principal Scrutiny Adviser also undertook to circulate copies of the presentations made to today’s meeting, if the witnesses supplied him with an electronic copy;

·  It was agreed that the Board should have another evidence-gathering session, involving witnesses representing a faith group and the voluntary sector. It was felt that perhaps a visit to one of their premises by a small Working Group of Board Members might be the most appropriate way to conduct this session, and again, the Principal Scrutiny Adviser undertook to canvass for interested Members.



(a)  That the presentations be received and noted, and the witnesses be thanked for attending and the manner in which they responded to Members’ queries and comments;

(b)  That the points raised be included in the draft Inquiry report to be submitted to the Board later in the municipal year;

(c)  That the Principal Scrutiny Adviser be requested to pursue the follow-up actions identified above, and to liaise with Members accordingly


(NB:  1  Councillor Driver declared a personal interest in this item in his capacity as a Director / Trustee of Leeds Groundwork Trust;

  2  Councillor Atha left the meeting at 10.45 am, during the consideration of this item, and Councillors Campbell and Driver left the meeting at 11.45 am at the conclusion of this item)


Supporting documents: