CONSULTATION RESPONSE Delivering the Strategy (9.2) There is a reference to encouraging VCS organisations to work together where it would be beneficial to do so. We assume that this particular bullet-point relates to instances where two or more voluntary organisations work together to provide services – that comment is certainly valid but we feel that voluntary organisations (plus those in other sectors) should seek to work together in all instances, even when they are not involved in the direct provision of services. Evaluating the Strategy (10) We agree with the use of generic measures but these too must be SMART. For instance, looking at the bullet-points in this section, it would be difficult to measure whether the VCS ‘felt’ more included in the commissioning process, what was capacity building and what amounted to increased sustainability. Similarly, whilst it might be possible to cite examples of the involvement and engagement of the VCS, it is more difficult to measure their success or otherwise. Is it perhaps the intention that the SMART targets will be in the individual action plans with the difficult to measure aims/objectives in the strategy? Expectations and Commitments of the Commissioning Process (page 13) Again the various bullet-points set out aims which are difficult to measure – if that was not the intention then this needs amending – if they are just ‘ideals’ then perhaps they are ok but this needs stating. VCS Organisations, Infrastructure Groups etc. (page 18) These do have a vital role to play and that is acknowledged. This section should, however, set out how the statutory and voluntary sector can seek to ensure effective liaison/communication. The arrangements contained in the commissioning process, the terms of SLAs, the conditions of grant aid approval and the Compacts represent various means of achieving this. However, the County Council should attend, if not be represented on, the Boards of infrastructure organisations and attend meetings at least once every six months. Epping Forest District Council has both Councillor and Member representation (quite rightly they have no voting rights and attend as observers) on the Board of Trustees of Voluntary Action Epping Forest and this proves to be an invaluable means of keeping abreast of and working together on issues of mutual concern. Clarification Around the Role of Grants (page 19) The strategy rightly makes reference to the important role grants can play. It would be useful to expand on that role, citing examples – Like most Districts/Boroughs, Epping Forest District Council has a ‘Grant Aid Scheme for Voluntary and Community Organisations’. This is used to fund many worthy organisations and causes, particularly towards the costs of new one-off projects or further development of an existing scheme e.g. new buildings, building repairs and improvements, equipment and materials. We still also have a number of Service Level Agreements which, in some instances, we regard as the perfect balance somewhere between a grant and ‘contract’ - on the basis that as ‘it isn’t broken we won’t seek to fix it’ these SLAs remain in place and we believe they still have a part to play – something that should be acknowledged in the strategy. Whilst commissioning is the right approach in some instances it is not always the only, or indeed, the best one. The strategy should represent a vision for the VCS, its partners and the county, not one purely for the County Council. Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 (page 20) The provisions apply to all services over the OJEC threshold. However, whether above or below the OJEC threshold, we believe that the social, economic and environmental aspects (and not just the best price) of all the services provided by the voluntary sector should be considered in every instance and when a decision is taken by the statutory sector as to who the service provider should be, the aspects identified should be stated.