2 Aug 2011

Thousands of charities face funding cuts

Thousands of charities and voluntary groups across England are facing cuts worth more than £100m, according to new figures, casting doubt on David Cameron’s vision for a Big Society.

Some groups are having funding withdrawn altogether, the study of councils by union-backed website False Economy showed.

The cuts have totalled over £10m in the past year, but the final figure is likely to be far higher because some authorities have not yet finalised their plans, said the report.

Unions claim the figures undermine David Cameron’s vision for a Big Society, but the Government says it has provided a “fair and progressive funding settlement” for councils that protect the most vulnerable

False Economy says many of the charities facing cuts deal with disabled people, children, the elderly and adult care.

The group’s campaign director, Clifford Singer, said: “These cuts go deep into the voluntary and community sectors.

“These are not just nice to have groups but organisations providing vital services for older people trying to maintain independent lives, vulnerable children and abused women.

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“With so many of the cuts simply resulting in further pressure on the NHS or other statutory services, they are truly a false economy.

“Ministers talk up localism and say services will be better shaped locally, but the huge front-loaded cuts to councils mean that local decision-making simply gives councils the choice of which vulnerable people they should make suffer for an economic crisis they did nothing to cause.”

Thousands of charities and voluntary groups across England are facing budget cuts worth more than £100m (Getty)

A ‘big con’?

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented: “These deep cuts to voluntary groups across the UK show that Government claims that charities can replace direct services currently provided by central or local government are false.

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“It sounds great, but in practice the Big Society is looking more and more like a big con.”

Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The severity of cuts to council budgets means savings are having to be made across the board, and unfortunately funding to charities, voluntary organisations and community groups is not exempt.

“Decisions to reduce financial support to the voluntary sector will never be taken lightly and local authorities have rightly carried out full and frank consultations before reducing funding to groups.

“Many councils and voluntary sector groups have sat down together to consider budgets and come up with joint solutions to the tough financial decisions they have had to take.

“Even where local authorities have had to reduce the amount of money they give to charities, they are working to help them plug the gap by providing advice and support with services such as project planning, human resources and media promotion.”

Some councils ‘short-sighted’

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Government has provided a fair and progressive funding settlement for councils that protect frontline services and shield the most vulnerable.

“Councils have challenging decisions to make around how they prioritise spending but the Government is clear that councils must resist any temptation to pass on disproportionate savings to the voluntary sector.

“In their approach to budget setting, the best councils are showing that they understand that a strong, thriving voluntary sector is more important now than ever and could be the key to providing high-quality, good-value services to their residents. But this is not the case everywhere.

“Councils that are failing to recognise the importance of the sector are being short-sighted in their approach.”

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