Voluntary sector leaders attending yesterday's second recession summit urged the Government to send a strong message to local authorities about the need to continue funding charities during the recession.
The meeting, co-chaired by the new charities minister, Angela Smith, and Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, was attended by representatives of about 30 sector bodies, including the major umbrella organisations.
After the event, Ann Blackmore, head of campaigns and policy at the NCVO, said there was anecdotal evidence that some local authorities had already reacted to their own budgetary pressures by cutting funding to sector bodies such as volunteer centres.
She said: "There is an increase in interest in volunteering, but there is an issue about the capacity to manage that. The Government needs to think about what it needs to invest in volunteering. Local authorities see volunteer centres as a discretionary item in their budgets, but they have a critical part to play in their community resilience packages."
Blackmore said Smith was listening but not committing to anything. She added that feedback from CVSs was that local funders, including local authorities, often failed to understand the importance of reserves.
"Charity Commission best practice recommends that charities keep six months' operating costs in reserve," Blackmore said. "But some funders would see that money in the bank and say: ‘We don't see a case for funding you.'"
She said delegates had suggested that the commission and the Local Government Association should issue joint guidance on funding sector organisations.
The summit included a presentation from Campbell Robb, director-general of the Office of the Third Sector, on the Government's progress in implementing the £40.5m action plan, announced in February, which arose out of the first third sector summit in November.
The summit coincided with the publication of a document called Support in Uncertain Times, which gives advice on surviving the recession. The document explains how umbrella bodies can better support the sector through the recession by capacity-building, collaboration, evidence-building and cooperation with the Government.
Representatives of voluntary organisations that were invited to attend:
- Anna Southall, Big Lottery Fund
- Baroness Pitkeathley, Office of the Third Sector Advisory Board
- Ben Kernighan, NCVO
- Campbell Robb, Office of the Third Sector
- Dame Julia Cleverdon, Business in the Community
- David Emerson, Association of Charitable Foundations
- David Harker, Citizens Advice
- David Tyler, Community Matters
- Dr Peter Kyle, Acevo
- George Leahy, Social Enterprise Coalition
- Graham Benfield, WCVA
- Gareth Siddorn, Charities Aid Foundation
- Helen Donoghue, Charity Tax Group
- Jane Greenoak, National Housing Federation
- John Kingston, Venturesome
- Karl Wilding, NCVO
- Keith Hickey, Charity Finance Directors' Group
- Kevin Curley, Navca
- Lindsay Boswell, Institute of Fundraising
- Martin Ball, Voice4Change
- Martin Sime, SCVO
- Mike Locke, Volunteering England
- Professor John Mohan, Third Sector Research Centre
- Rachael Maskell, Unite
- Rosie Chapman, Charity Commission
- Seamus McAleavey, Nicva
- Stuart Etherington, NCVO
- Susan Mackenzie, Philanthropy UK