Little at Large: Want funding? We'll just check your newsletter

The end of central government funding for Community Empowerment Networks a year ago created an interesting little experiment in how local government really sees the voluntary sector.

The abolition of the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund meant that the networks, created to ensure the sector's influence in the regeneration of the country's poorest areas, would have to compete with drugs and crime reduction projects to win funding from town halls. Twelve months on, networks such as Birmingham CEN have closed because grants have been stopped. But the survivors have been subject to the insidious spread of bureaucratic control.

Here's one email from an unnamed CEN coordinator: "Our latest newsletter, which of course the sector finds useful and informative, led to the comment from the council that in future we would need to submit it in draft form for their approval. I kid you not when I say that we are living in a dictatorship. My integrity is worth more to me than a hand-out from the council in return for unquestioning loyalty."

Sounds more like emasculation than empowerment.

- It seems that the influence of Mabel, the British bulldog that accompanies Debra Allcock Tyler to work at the Directory of Social Change (Third Sector, 19 March), has had an effect on other staff. Satinder Pujji, finance director at the DSC, is now treasurer of the Bulldog Rescue and Rehoming Trust.

Rumours that Mabel will be leading a new DSC course on Networking for Dogs are yet to be confirmed.

- Charities should always endeavour to cut unnecessary waste, and it's the responsibility of the press to expose excess and extravagance. In the spirit of transparency, then, it falls on this column to reveal that the male toilets at Unicef contain a bidet.

- Mathew Little is a freelance writer

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