203, it’s the magic number

Adam PickeringYou will hopefully be aware that Compact Voice launched a survey of local Compacts last month. It’s something that we are pretty excited about … but then we are massive Compact nerds!
Actually, the survey is something that everyone in the voluntary and community sector can get behind as the results will give us – for the first time – a comprehensive national picture of local Compact health. This should help you to put your local Compact in perspective and also enable Compact Voice to speak with authority on your behalf. But the survey itself isn’t what I want to write about in this particular blog entry.
Before sending out the survey we wanted to ensure that we had the contact details of at least one key local contact for the Compact in each area. We envisaged that this exercise would kill two birds with one stone as we had also planned to publish contact details for every Compact on our website – information which is no longer available since the closing of the Commission for the Compacts' website.
Simple right?
Well no, actually it was a mammoth undertaking. The Compact landscape has evolved significantly to fit the differing circumstances of local areas. As such it was difficult simply to prove (or disprove) the very existence of some Compacts. The struggle against out of date web pages, the obfuscating effect of local government reorganisation and two tier Compact structures was Olympian. Okay, “Olympian” is overstating it, but it was pretty laborious.
But now, in the cold light of day, I can see that it has all been worth while. Because the picture that has emerged in clear focus is in stark contrast to the muddy image we had up until quite recently. For example, in contrast with the vague estimates made in the past as to the number of local Compacts, we can say that to our knowledge there are 203 local Compacts, with a further 5 over which there is some debate as to whether they are active. This leaves 9 local authority areas which either have no Compact or do not consider their Compact to be active.
Perhaps the most notable trend to emerge is the creation of more county-wide Compacts in two tier areas. In these areas, District councils have ceded their local Compacts and signed up to a county level one in order to bring about a simplified structure. Whilst there are a number of successful district Compacts in England it can be difficult to articulate the purview of such a Compact to partners who operate across district council boundaries.
So if you are wondering why it is so hard to implement your local Compact, perhaps you should start by investigating how easy it is to find about it online, and whether information such as contact details are a) available and b) accurate. Because if we are struggling to find out how a Compact works in your area, then a total newcomer to Compact working isn't likely to do much better. 
The report on the findings of the survey will be published on this website in early August, so stay tuned!

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