The voluntary sector is the cement that holds the rest of our society together. It is particularly strong in the Stroud Constituency, taking many shapes, sizes and dispositions.

Yet all is not well with the Voluntary Sector. They have suffered from cuts just like the public and private sectors. This has both dispirited volunteers and meant that it has been far less easy to provide effective services with the resources available. Sadly there are fewer voluntary organisations today than there were a decade ago and I find a tale of disharmony when I visit those organisations.

One of the biggest bugbears facing the Third Sector is that they are continually having to commission for work they are already carrying out to the best of their ability.

Value for money is of course important but you wonder how you can get better value for money than volunteers.

A recent example of this is the Village Agent Scheme. Set up originally by the NHS with funding help from the DWP this was assimilated by the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council. The idea of the scheme was to employ someone for a few hours a week to oversee the welfare of older vulnerable people in mainly rural areas. The scheme is about early intervention to try to prevent those people getting into difficulties.

To my mind this is what neighbourliness is all about – it runs on a shoestring and yet provides care to the most needy.

Yet the Village Agent Scheme is now being tendered out by the county council. This is both mad and completely counterproductive – it will lead to a worse service and may cause that service’s demise as all the voluntary contribution will end.

I am hoping that those in authority will reconsider and reinvest the money from the unnecessary commissioning process into the service itself.