Liverpool City Council has cut its voluntary sector budget by £18m, the day after communities secretary Eric Pickles threatened legal action against local authorities that made "disproportionate" cuts.
The Labour-led council agreed to cut its sector budget for 2010/11 from £37m to £19m on Wednesday. It rejected a late amendment from the city’s Liberal Democrats to give an extra £1m to the voluntary sector.
The council made £91m of savings in total, which represented a 22 per cent budget reduction. Its voluntary sector budget was reduced by 48 per cent.
Pickles told the annual conference of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations on Tuesday he would consider using "statutory force" against councils that inflicted cuts to their voluntary sector budgets that were greater than their overall reduction in spending.
Alan Lewis, chief executive of Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services, told Third Sector it was shedding 33 of its 59 staff in anticipation of a £600,000 loss of funding.
"We are looking at complete devastation of the voluntary sector in Liverpool," said Lewis, who addressed councillors before they made their decision. "The impact will be colossal."
He said many charities still didn’t know precisely how the cuts would affect them and that the Liverpool Compact, which outlines how the public and voluntary sector should treat each other, had been irrelevant in the budget-setting process.
Warren Bradley, Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat leader, said it was a "sad day for the city".
His party had proposed funding the extra £1m to the voluntary sector by reducing council spending on consultants and publications.
"It seems glossy magazines are more important than the voluntary sector," said Bradley. "This is what the loony left did to Liverpool in the 1980s."
A council spokesman said it needed to find £91m of savings. "There is no way of doing that without all areas of council spending being affected."
He declined to discuss Pickles’ comments.