Acevo chief calls for £500m emergency support

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are being urged to announce at least £500m of emergency financial support for the voluntary sector and to make sure the sector is represented on the new National Economic Council, set up to respond to the economic downturn.

Stephen Bubb, head of chief executives body Acevo, made the call in a letter to Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. He said he hoped senior colleagues would endorse it and the sector would speak with one voice.

"Charities will play a vital role in helping ordinary people cope with the consequences of the economic downturn," said Bubb in the letter.

According to a survey by Acevo and the Charities Aid Foundation, 72 per cent of charity chief executives are already facing a rising demand for their services. But because of falling income and rising costs, 29 per cent are making staff redundant.

Bubb is demanding that the minister for the third sector, Kevin Brennan, sit on the National Economic Council and that a £500m emergency fund be set up to help charities working with victims of the recession. He is also arguing that Gift Aid should be reformed to boost sector income.

"I am confident that Alistair Darling will recognise that it is not just banks that need government support," he said. "We need to be clear: charities will make a big difference to how we experience this recession, and they are feeling the squeeze. We need support now."

Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, agreed that the sector should have "some form of representation" on the National Economic Council. "If the council is to understand the problems that individuals and communities face, then it needs to listen to and work with those in the sector who have direct knowledge and experience of these issues," he said.

But Kevin Curley, chief executive of local infrastructure umbrella body Navca, dismissed the plea for a £500m emergency fund as a gimmick.

In response to the coming recession, the local voluntary sector needed to work with its partners in local government to shift funding priorities from areas such as culture and sport into organisations dealing with poverty, homelessness and advice, said Curley.

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