The power of local infrastructure: How a new government can work with NAVCA members

June 13, 2024

Local infrastructure can contribute to an incoming government’s ambitions for thriving communities. That is why we are calling on the incoming government to recognise the value of local infrastructure, and to work strategically with NAVCA members to achieve positive outcomes. In this blog, we set out our position ahead of the 2024 general election.

All levels of government and the voluntary sector want to see thriving communities, where citizens are safe, connected and able to flourish. An active voluntary, community and social enterprise sector contributes to thriving communities – it improves people’s wellbeing, strengthens community life, responds in times of need, and delivers public services.

We also know that an active voluntary and community sector needs high quality support from local infrastructure organisations. Local infrastructure organisations provide direct support for communities and the VCSE sector through being an embedded presence in a local area. An incoming government can benefit from this knowledge, and we want a new government to work with local infrastructure as an equal strategic partner.

LIOs can help shape and drive an incoming government’s ambitions for thriving communities by:

• Building strategic relationships and bringing together community knowledge and skills.

• Developing partnerships with key organisations and enabling collaboration.

• Acting as a trusted partner, effectively communicating with and representing communities.

• Building the capacity of VCS organisations.

• Supporting early intervention and providing rapid response in crises.

• Contributing to local economic development through employment and volunteering.

All communities need an active and engaged voluntary sector, supported by high-quality local infrastructure. However, systemic change in the public sector is essential to address issues caused by austerity, fragmented commissioning, and short-term funding. The voluntary sector, with its diverse assets and approach, has been undervalued and reduced to a provider of basic services. Policy changes, including adequate funding for social care, improvements to the universal credit system, and better funding for local authorities, will allow the voluntary sector to focus on building thriving communities rather than filling gaps left by the state.  

We want to see key changes to government policy, which will enable local infrastructure to fulfil its ambitions and improve outcomes for communities, the VCSE sector, and statutory partners:

1. Work with the VCSE sector as an equal strategic partner. The VCS contributes to thriving communities and should be viewed as a valued partner.

2. Work with the VCSE sector at an early stage to help define problems, hear the voice of lived experience, and co-design services to meet need. The VCS holds much of the information and knowledge about a local area, its needs and aspirations. It also works with communities including excluded groups.

3. Devolve policy formation and decision-making closer to the people affected. Drawing on the experience of the VCSE sector is essential in identifying, shaping and solving problems locally. This avoids the creation of national programmes that are unable to adequately respond to real local priorities or dictate how budgets can be spent locally.

4. Deliver long term stable and sustainable commissioning and funding arrangements. This will allow planning and development by local authorities, health systems, local infrastructure and the VCSE sector, ensuring that public services can be delivered effectively.

5. Invest in local infrastructure as the convenor, partnership enabler and capacity builder to enable communities and the VCS to thrive. The strategic relationships with local authorities, health systems and other statutory partners forged by LIOs bring significant benefits to communities.

The general election provides an opportunity for a new government to work in partnership with the whole VCSE sector to deliver policies that will give all communities the positive changes they need now to improve lives and thrive .

Download the full resource here.