Commission for the Compact 'powerless' to investigate OTS breach

Disappointment for campaigners over scrapped grants

The Commission for the Compact has said it does not have the powers to investigate the Office of the Third Sector's breach of the Compact.

Third sector minister Angela Smith broke the Compact, the mutual fair play agreement between the public and voluntary sectors, when she announced without consultation last week that her department had scrapped grants worth £750,000 to 32 voluntary organisations.

The grants had been offered as part of the Campaigning Research Programme, which the OTS opened in April to strengthen the ability of charities to campaign for change. Formal offers of grants worth about £20,000 each were sent last month.

Compact Voice, which represents the voluntary sector on Compact issues, this week called for an independent group, such as the commission, to investigate the U-turn.

But Richard Corden, chief executive of the commission, said: "We don't have any more powers than anyone else to investigate this."

The commission has asked the Government for it to be given statutory powers to investigate Compact breaches, but no powers have yet been given.

Corden said the breach was deplorable, but added that Smith deserved a "minor well done" for owning up.

Tom Elkins, manager of Compact Voice, said it would continue talking to the commission and the OTS about an investigation "to establish why this decision was made".

Meanwhile, umbrella body the NCVO is writing to Smith to request a meeting. It is also writing to the OTS to ask it to explain the rationale behind the decision.

The NCVO has threatened to take legal action, but the six-page terms and conditions of the grants include a clause that says "both parties can agree to end or vary this agreement without the consent of a third party".

An OTS spokesman said: "We are confident that we have not breached the terms and conditions of the agreement.

"The minister was aware of the consequences of this difficult decision, but wanted to focus Government funds on supporting the third sector during these difficult economic times."

Smith said the severity of the recession had prompted her to divert the £750,000 to the £16.7m Hardship Fund.

Organisations selected for the Campaigning Research Programme

Action in Rural Sussex – Three Villages project

BME Community Champions

BME Community Services, West Sussex

Bolton Solidarity Community Association

Bristol Somali Resource Centre

Community Action Safety and Training Trust

Church Action on Poverty North East

Crosby Community Association, Scunthorpe

Easington Lane Community Access Point

Gender and Participation Unit

GenderShift

Greenbank Tenants and Residents Association

Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust

Houghton Racecourse Community Access Point

Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation

JH Foundations

Leeds Gate

London Detainee Support Group

Manchester Disabled People's Action Group

Merton Unity Network

Mexborough Community Partnership

North Hampshire Caribbean and African Network

Object

One Community Development Trust

Our Vision Our Future, Chesterfield

People in Action (Leeds)

Plias Resettlement

Press for Change

Reading Refugee Support Group

South Bank Tomorrow

Street Talk

Surrey Gypsy Travellers Forum

 

 

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