Ministerial backing for council grants campaign

Phil Hope, the minister for the third sector, has thrown his weight behind a campaign to persuade local authorities of the importance of maintaining grant funding for grass-roots organisations.

Sustaining Grants, which highlights the need for grants to support the work of small community organisations and is spearheaded by lobby group Navca, was launched this week. Speaking at the launch event, Hope said he supported the campaign’s aims.

“I’ll be making sure that my colleagues in other government departments and in local authorities listen attentively,” he said.

The minister pledged that the £80m small grants fund, unveiled as part of the third sector review earlier this year, would be aimed at community organisations.

“I know there is a fear that the large organisations, the ones that already know the system, will somehow capture the cash,” he said. “That isn’t the intention. We want the money to get out to the small, possibly voluntary-led organisations only.”

The application process would also be free from “bureaucracy and form-filling”, he insisted.

Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of voluntary sector training and publishing organisation the Directory of Social Change, said the Office of the Third Sector must act to prevent local authorities cutting their grant funding for community groups.

“The reality on the ground is that local authorities are taking a drastic and dangerous shift away from grants towards contract funding,” she said. “What we need is for the Office of the Third Sector to act as a sector champion in protecting the grant portion of local authority budgets.”

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