Analysis: Navca report paints bleak picture for members

Tim Tonkin talks to councils for voluntary service, including Brian Carr at BVSC, to see how they are dealing with funding cuts

Brian Carr, chief executive at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council
Brian Carr, chief executive at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council

Navca's latest report, Funding Local Voluntary and Community Action, painted a bleak picture for local infrastructure organisations. Research carried out among 90 members of the umbrella body showed that average income is expected to fall in the current financial year by about a fifth, and that 40 per cent of them were expecting to have to make redundancies this year.

But what effect are the cutbacks having on the organisations themselves?

Ferg Slade, policy and campaigns officer at Nottingham Council for Voluntary Service, says the general situation faced by local infrastructure organisations is tough. "It is noticeably harder now - groups are working with increased demand, fewer staff and less funding," he says.

Slade says his CVS was forced to lose 16 staff from its volunteering, administration, commissioning and outreach work at the end of 2010/11, leaving it with about 25 staff. The loss of posts such as commissioning officer make it harder for the centre to make its voice heard in communications with local government, he says.

Slade says the CVS has bid successfully for an infrastructure contract from Nottingham City Council, although most of the money was for direct delivery of services rather than to cover core costs. It will receive about £34,000 from the contract for overheads, instead of a £205,000 council grant.

The organisation had a deficit of £103,000 last year, he says, and trustees are planning to commit reserves over coming years to bridge this gap.

"The perfect storm is still yet to come," he warns. "It is bad at the moment, but it's like a tropical storm before the hurricane."

Brian Carr, chief executive at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, says his organisation had seen cuts in the funding it receives from Birmingham City Council after it switched from a grant to a tendered contract.

Despite securing the contract that was offered to deliver support for organisations in the city, Carr says the amount received was equivalent to a 15 per cent reduction over the next three years.

He says, however, that his organisation has been able to mitigate the worst effects in the current financial year by increasing income from other sources such as trading.

Carr says that front-line services are bearing the brunt of funding cuts.

BVSC's annual report said that 30 per cent of small to medium organisations delivering public services in Birmingham had been forced to close over the past two years. "This means a reduction in public service provision, and a greater demand on running services not just in the voluntary but the public sector as well," says Carr.

Nottingham Women's Centre, which provides advice and support to women in the city, is one such organisation.

Melanie JeffsMelanie Jeffs (right), the centre manager, said that pressure on services was increasing. It lost three-year funding from the Learning and Skills Council last year, meaning that the centre is no longer able to provide one-to-one sessions to help women looking to get back into work. The centre had to reduce its childcare service from five to four days a week, she says.

Jeffs adds that in March of this year her centre had expected to lose up to half of its local authority funding - nearly 40 per cent of its overall total - but this was maintained. "We have dodged a bullet so far, but something has got to give at some point," she says.

- See Editorial

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