This article evaluates the current attempt to develop local 'compacts' between local government and the voluntary and community sector, as a way of structuring the evolving relationships between these sectors. It is based on documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews with key national and local informants. The first part of the article charts local government-voluntary sector relationships in England from, 1979 to 2000. The second part introduces the concept of the 'voluntary sector compact'. and argues that this is central to the Government's approach to these relationships. The third part explores the implementation of the Voluntary Sector Compact in England at both the national and local level. Finally, the authors draw out key lessons for the future of relationships between local government and the voluntary sector in England.