In its recent report Hearts and Minds: commissioning from the voluntary sector, the commission said there was no evidence councils were reducing total expenditure on grants. It claimed they were merely “aligning their grant giving better with their strategic priorities”.
However, Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca, has written to Steve Bundred, the commission’s chief executive, to dispute that claim. He said it did not accord with a Navca survey of local infrastructure organisations in 2006 that found 27 per cent of local authorities were no longer providing grant aid to local organisations.
His letter read: “We do have to question the basis on which you reached your conclusion about local authority grant aid. Of the 14 authorities you surveyed, only nine provided you with information about grants. Of the nine, five had increased grant aid between 2002/03 and 2004/05 and four had reduced it. This represents a very small sample and does not appear to us to support the conclusion you reached.
“The general picture is one of a decline in grant aid from local authorities to local voluntary organisations and community groups, which we believe poses a serious threat to the health of the local voluntary and community sector and to the work the VCS does in local communities to help people in need.”
Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, also disputed the Audit Commission’s finding. “The NCVO almanac clearly shows a decline,” he said.
The Audit Commission was unable to respond before Third Sector Daily went to press.