Back to basics: Preparing for cuts

Tips from John O'Brien, chair of the community accounting network

John O'Brien
John O'Brien

Sometimes it's tempting to turn off the news and pretend it's not happening - spending reviews, 25 per cent reductions, another few billion to be saved in the back office. Even though the Prime Minister is encouraging local authorities to look in-house rather than cutting grants, down at the local level it's hard to feel part of the big society when your only grant is about to be reviewed. But I was taught that where there is a threat, there may also be an opportunity - a time to review what we do, perhaps.

At CA Plus, we have an awayday next week. Our main agenda item is simple - what will we do if our grants are cut? There are really only a few ways to deal with this. Can we charge a fee? This usually means charging our clients for the services currently subsidised by the taxpayer. Can our clients pay, and would they pay?

Could we get someone else to give us money? Should we do something else? We could start providing different services in different areas, but we would need to be sure to remember why we are here - our charitable objects are quite clear.

Can we cut costs ourselves? We send our post second-class, and I suppose staff could wear more vests in winter; but, like most organisations, our main expense is salaries. This throws up some big questions. Lastly, we could pack up and go home.

Of course, it's also possible that the spending review will result in your grants being increased - well, you never know.

- John O'Brien is chair of the Community Accounting Network and chief executive of CA Plus.

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