Groups in fear for future as key contract decision looms

Adur and Worthing voluntary service staff criticise decision which will see council break long-standing ties with the organisations in favour of employing the services of a Brighton company. Jaqui Ball, chair of Voluntary Action Worthing (front), joined by Staff, trustees and volunteers.  Pic Steve Robards   SR1601056 SUS-161201-171818001
Adur and Worthing voluntary service staff criticise decision which will see council break long-standing ties with the organisations in favour of employing the services of a Brighton company. Jaqui Ball, chair of Voluntary Action Worthing (front), joined by Staff, trustees and volunteers. Pic Steve Robards SR1601056 SUS-161201-171818001
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VOLUNTARY organisations with more than 50 years’ experience fear for their future as they look set to lose out on a key contract.

Adur Voluntary Action and Voluntary Action Worthing claim they ranked significantly lower than another organisation in tendering for a new contract to deliver Adur and Worthing councils services.

The councils have stressed a decision will not be made until next month – but face a challenge from the organisations over the perceived fairness of the tender process.

“We are so passionate about what we do and to see it apparently counting for nothing is just really hard to bear,” said Jaqui Ball, chairman of Voluntary Action Worthing.

The Adur and Worthing organisations have separately provided services for 30 and 22 years respectively, assisting small groups and charities. But the council announced in November it was commissioning a new, single contract, to commence in April.

The two groups set up a joint community interest company to bid for the contract.

Mrs Ball said a company from outside the area had scored 96 per cent in the tender process, while the joint bid was marked at just 48 per cent.

She said the scoring was ‘hurtful’.

“We feel devastated to say the least but also can’t understand why an organisation from outside the district could get a contract over one which has a track record and the trust of members and local knowledge,” she said.

“We find it really hard to understand.”

The organisations have written to the council, questioning the tender process.

A statement released by Adur Voluntary Action (AVA) board members read: “Particular concerns are whether there is evidence of a level playing field, where and how widely the opportunity was promoted, and that the Public Services (Social Value) Act was followed in spirit.

“This act recognises the value of local knowledge, networks, commitment and experience in the award of such contracts.”

The organisations hope to carry on their work, should they lose the contract, but face an uphill battle for survival.

Mrs Ball said the contract was worth £35,000 a year, along with an office at Worthing Town Hall, and admitted the loss of funding could put the group at risk.

Alternative funding streams are being explored.

The AVA board added: “The organisation has for many years invested in building up its independent networks and volunteer teams.

“It now calls upon these, and the public, to support and remain engaged with their existing councils for voluntary services, and to consider endorsing AVA’s and Voluntary Action Worthing’s challenge.”

A council spokesman said a decision would be made after February 4.

He said: “Adur and Worthing councils have been funding infrastructure support for the voluntary sector through the two Councils for Voluntary Service.

“These agreements come to an end on March 31, 2016.

“Adur and Worthing councils have conducted a procurement exercise, the purpose of which is to secure the best provider to meet the councils’ objectives.

“The key decision on the future provision of the procurement process and contract award has not yet been made and will be published after February 4, 2016, in accordance with local government legislation. “

The organisations support small groups and charities across the area, helping them unlock funding amongst other key responsibilities.