Voluntary Sector Respond to Cuts

A Statement From The Chief Exec of Thurrock Council for Voluntary Services (CVS)

“TCVS is responding to the present funding situation facing our community and voluntary sector organisations. Our response has been informed by our extensive work in this area, as well as comments received from our members during the course of this consultation.

The language of cuts is now official government terminology: it’s no longer if, but when, and how much. The news that a large part of voluntary sector grants is under review is worrying for any organisation (not to mention the service users), particularly as it closely follows a recession that has hit other income sources in what, for many organisations, has been a pincer movement.

Levels of need in service areas have increased during the recession, these cuts in public spending, therefore, arrive at a the worst possible time.

Funding cuts affect communities across the area. When developing spending plans local government must understand the vital contribution services run by voluntary and community organisations make. These services are not just nice add-ons; they are critical to the well-being of the local communities.

Also there needs to be an understanding that any cut in funding is disproportionate within the third sector given the added value of leverage in terms of volunteers and other funding streams.

TCVS is therefore in discussions with the Councils leadership with a view to :-

1. Whilst accepting that cuts may be inevitable, we are endevouring to minimise their impact.

2. Developing a framework for dealing with future funding arrangements that are clear and transparent and include an agreed criteria for funding decisions. These discussions will set the longer term strategy with the council and other statutory bodies

3. Working with the council and others to build improved relationships, which are crucial if we are to enjoy a thriving Third Sector. Work has already started on developing a Thriving Third Sector Strategy and we are working on developing and improving the partnerships, between the sectors.

4. In addition to the above the current ‘refresh’ of The Compact (which provides the rules of engagement for collaboration between government and the voluntary sector) suggests an ongoing commitment to working with and funding the sector. Secondly, the work on the Future Commissioning has already started. Thurrock statutory and the third sector are working together to design future commissioning which suits both parties. Wider level consultation, training, joined up strategic thinking all are happening.

Finally, governments of all colours still will need to provide public services: indeed, one of the political points of debate is the extent to which frontline services can be protected within the overall context of reduced public funding. Quite simply, voluntary organisations offer the best value for money.

We acknowledge that over the recent months, Thurrock Council has made recognizable efforts to engage the sector in a wide range of debates. CVS has organized and facilitated members meetings and findings have been communicated to the council representatives.

Our role is one of leadership in trying to create a positive and productive environment for the benefit of our communities.

With an election by July 2010 at the latest, and a comprehensive spending review immediately after, we can expect voluntary organisations to be actively joining debates on what services citizens can expect the government to fund, and how those services are delivered.

VCS groups were already approaching these issues with expectations of less core funding, less grant funding, and an increase in commissioning approaches. There will be less flexibility and increased pressures from tendering processes, which encourage economies of scale. TCVS will continue to work within the Third Sector to help equip it to meet these future challenges.

Dates for your diaries

We are pleased to inform you that the Shaping Thurrock Partnership has agreed to produce and own a Thriving Third Sector Strategy.  This comes as a response to work carried out by CVS and the CIB requesting the need for a partnership owned strategy, as well as an acknowledgment from the partnership that relationships with the Third sector are strained.

We are organizing a meeting with key voluntary sector players to discuss the key priorities that need to be captured by the strategy, building on the CVS stakeholder meetings, the Designing out disability conferences, compact work and past/current experiences and expertise. This meeting will be held at the Beehive on

Thursday 25th February 10am to 12.30pm.”

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