Councils 'see charities as threat'

Francois Le Goff

Too many local authorities regard voluntary organisations as a potential threat, Tom Levitt, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities, told a parliamentary debate on volunteering last month.

The Labour MP for High Peak said local government must involve voluntary organisations as equal partners to represent local communities. He described the Compact as "patchy", arguing that good practice had not been sufficiently well disseminated through local authorities.

Levitt said local authorities sometimes regard voluntary organisations as competitors in representing local communities. He said he had overheard a conversation between members of two local strategic partnerships.

"One mentioned a parish councillor who had described a voluntary sector representative in a certain way and then said: 'Don't they realise I'm elected?' The implication was that only someone who was elected could know what was needed in that community," said Levitt. "Sadly, the response of the other person in the conversation was: 'Oh, we don't have that problem; we don't have any community sector people.'"

Charities minister Paul Goggins, who took part in the debate, acknowledged the Compact "is not working as well as it should in every area, so that organisations are paid on time and are given proper respect".

Citizens Advice told Third Sector that a significant number of its local branches always face funding cuts because local authorities fail to recognise the contribution of the voluntary sector in delivering services at the local level.

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