Editorial: Resourcefulness in tough times

There are rays of light in the doom and gloom facing the sector, writes Andy Ricketts

Andy Ricketts
Andy Ricketts

The Navca report, Funding Local Voluntary and Community Action, confirms many of the uncomfortable truths the sector has been facing since the economic downturn began.

A survey of Navca members carried out for the report found that income for local infrastructure bodies is expected to fall on average by about a fifth this year, that 60 per cent of members had to make redundancies last year and 40 per cent expect to have to lose staff this year.

The report shows that infrastructure organisations continue to suffer from sizable reductions in local authority income. Despite the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, and others last year making noises about protecting charities from disproportionate cuts, the survey shows that infrastructure bodies are feeling a squeeze on funds. The 'best value' guidance produced by the Communities and Local Government department last year, which warned councils not to make disproportionate cuts to the sector, appears increasingly irrelevant.

But for all the doom and gloom, there are some bright spots. According to the Navca survey, some members said an enforced restructure had strengthened their organisation, while others reported bringing in new strands of funding.

Our analysis of how local people have taken over the running of libraries is another demonstration of the resourcefulness on display. Local people doing for free what the state once paid for may or may not have been the driver behind David Cameron's big society idea, but the commitment displayed by these locals represents the best in local community action.

The question is whether this small army of amateur professionals can be sustained. It's one thing for volunteers to run a library in some Buckinghamshire idyll, but it takes something else in the tougher surrounds of New Cross in south London, where Kathy Dunbar has mobilised a team to keep her local library going. The continued pinch on the public purse means we could find ourselves looking to gems like Kathy for years to come.

Andy Ricketts, deputy editor

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