Acevo and NCVO clash sealed fate of Third Sector Leadership Centre

Freedom of Information documents reveal why management training centre will fold

A dispute between the voluntary sector's two leading umbrella bodies was a crucial factor in the decision to stop funding the Third Sector Leadership Centre last month.

The centre, a venture led by the NCVO with chief executives body Acevo as a partner, will close at the end of March after sector infrastructure quango Capacitybuilders rejected a proposal to inject another £300,000 over the next two years.

Capacitybuilders has already invested £750,000 in the centre, which is based at Henley Management College in Oxfordshire, since it was founded in 2006 to improve the quality of leadership in the sector.

The minutes from the Capacitybuilders funding policy and programmes committee on 28 January reveal concerns that the business plan submitted by the NCVO "did not reflect the terms under which the centre was originally funded" and "did not identify long-term sustainable funding".

It says "other deliverables within the plan were unconvincing" and adds: "Broader stakeholder support for the proposal to bring the leadership centre in-house at the NCVO was unclear. It was understood that Acevo intended to write to indicate that they did not endorse NCVO's proposal."

The disagreement was kept quiet at the time, but documents obtained from Capacitybuilders by Third Sector under the Freedom of Information Act last week revealed the conflict between the NCVO and Acevo, which have 6,800 members and 2,050 members respectively.

A letter from Peter Kyle, deputy chief executive of Acevo, to the chief executive of Capacitybuilders, Matt Leach, two days before the committee meeting, said the NCVO had failed to "engage in any detailed discussion" about the business plan.

Kyle told Third Sector: "There is now no point hiding our exasperation that not one of our suggestions was given a fair hearing. Our Herculean attempts to engage in the NCVO consultation were met with stonewalling and silence, which has deprived our sector of a valuable resource at the time of greatest need.

"I regret that our tribulations with the NCVO over the leadership centre have become public. I know the sector expects better from us both."

Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the NCVO, said it had responded to Acevo's ideas for the business plan and that John Low, Acevo's chair at the time, had been invited to an awayday held by the centre's advisory group last year to discuss the business plan. "We proactively sought the views of Acevo," said Kernighan.

The centre's three staff were being consulted on redundancy terms last week.

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