Tories to create Office of Civil Society

The Tories are planning to create an Office of Civil Society if they achieve power, the party revealed today.

The proposal comes as part of the Conservative’s green paper of proposals for the third sector which will now go into consultation before featuring in the party’s manifesto.

David Cameron plans to create the office by replacing the current Office of the Third Sector, although he argues the new office will be put “at the heart of government” to fight for the interests of charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and community groups.

Other proposals involve the creation of a civil society select committee to scrutinise government policy towards the voluntary sector.

Public sector staff would be given time off work to volunteer and charities could make a profit over the government services they run which can then be directed towards their charitable work.

The proposals were welcomed by Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO).

“These proposals address issues of top concern for chief executives,” he said.

“It’s great to see plans to develop our role in transforming public services, reducing regulation, strengthening the compact and improving contracting.”

Stuart Etherington, CEO of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), welcomed the creation of the new office and the select committee.

“The new office will help to ensure that charities are no longer seen as the third sector – behind the private and public sectors – but the first sector,” he said.

“In particular we are pleased that the Conservatives have expressed clear support for longer term, strategic funding, and for contracts which focus on the desired outcome rather than the process.

But Phil Hope, minister for the third sector, rejected the proposals.

“For all his warm words today, David Cameron’s pledges on the third sector show he’s prepared to say anything to win support,” he said.

“In yet another example of the Tory leader’s shallow salesmanship, more than half of the pledges in the document today are already Labour government policies that are popular with charities, but his other promises show his true colours.”

He continued: “The Tory attitude towards the third sector is patronising and dangerous. Their plans show they would leave charities to deal with some of society’s most difficult problems without the money needed to do it, hoping for hand-outs rather than being funded properly to do their important work.”

The proposals will form an important building block of the Tories’ governmental programme. Mr Cameron has long advocated an enhanced role for the third sector in public service provision.