The sector umbrella bodies Acevo and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations have said they hope George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will use next week’s Budget statement to announce the formation of a £40m sustainability fund, first announced by government more than a year ago.
In an interview with Third Sector in March 2014, Nick Hurd, then the Minister for Civil Society, said the Cabinet Office would consult on a new fund, expected to be worth £40m, that would support service-delivering voluntary organisations that were in danger of closing because of financial pressures. The department opened a consultation on the fund’s design in May last year and said the details would be finalised during the summer.
The fund is yet to be given sign-off by HM Treasury, although the Cabinet Office hopes it will be approved and open for applications before the end of the financial year on 31 March. A spokeswoman for the Treasury said she could not provide any further update.
It is hoped that an announcement will come in the Budget statement, which will be delivered by Osborne on 18 March.
A spokesman for the NCVO said: "We’re not in the habit of counting chickens before they’ve hatched, but from the discussions we’ve had we are optimistic about a confirmation soon. This fund has been a long time coming and would be a very welcome boost for the sector."
Last week, the NCVO and other charity sector representative bodies sent a letter to Osborne asking for changes to the tax system that they said could save the sector hundreds of millions of pounds. They also urged him to take other measures, including a review of the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme.
Opening the sustainability fund is one of six requests also made in a letter to Osborne by Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the charity leaders group Acevo. The letter noted that the fund was originally announced more than a year ago; a spokesman for Acevo said it was "important to keep up the pressure on government" to bring this forward.
Bubb also asked Osborne to distance himself from a statement made last month by the communities secretary Eric Pickles, which urged all government departments to adopt an "anti-lobbying, anti-sock puppet clause" in agreements governing grants to charities and other groups.
The other four Acevo requests were for Osborne to allocate future Libor and other fines levied on businesses to building social infrastructure, to create social investment action zones, to "recognise and support the third sector’s role as Britain’s crisis managers" and to commit to ensuring the third sector is a preferred partner for public services.