The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has recently announced his intention to tackle local government cuts to voluntary and community groups.
Speaking at an event hosted by charity sector body NCVO, the Minister said, 'Let me be crystal clear. Councils should not pass on disproportionate cuts to voluntary groups and not pass on bigger cuts than they are making themselves. Sensible councils knew they were facing tough times and should have been talking to voluntary groups. It is reasonable to expect them to give three months notice when ending grants and to give voluntary groups the chance to offer an alternative case.'
The move comes after increasing calls from charities and voluntary groups across the country who are facing heavy cuts, often much higher than those in council run services, with many being forced to close. The irony in many cases is that charities facing closure are those most likely to help the big society agenda succeed in local communities.
For those councils that don't comply with this latest government intervention, the Minister has suggested that he will take further action, saying 'If councils are being high-handed I will consider giving our reasonable expectations statutory force. We cannot afford to let the voluntary sector’s enthusiasm go to waste whether they are a handful of volunteers or multi-million pound organisations. They have an essential place in localism.'
Although a welcome development there is concern that this may be too little too late for many voluntary groups who have already been given notice to close following council spending decision for April 2011. However the Minister has also hinted that confirmed funding decisions could be overturned. NCVO CEO Stuart Etherington said, "The secretary of state has made it clear that he expects those local authorities that have made disproportionate cuts to the sector to reconsider."