-This story has been clarified: see final paragraph
The Big Lottery Fund has awarded £20m to the new infrastructure fund established by the Office for Civil Society.
It means the Transforming Local Infrastructure programme has £50m to award in grants to organisations that provide support services across one or more upper-tier local authority areas.
The funding is available to organisations that want to rationalise infrastructure services. They have until 5 August to express interest in receiving grants of between £250,000 and £400,000 and until 2 September to provide fuller details.
Dharmendra Kanani, England director of the BLF, said the fund and the government were taking a more joined-up approach to supporting infrastructure.
"We are actively working alongside government, signalling a break from the past, to develop a more intelligent offer," said Kanani.
Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, described the BLF’s contribution as a "welcome boost".
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the local voluntary sector, rather than government, should decide whether infrastructure services should be rationalised.
"It is positive that government is supporting change in the sector, but rationalisation decisions must be taken by the local sector rather than being prescribed centrally," said Etherington.
He said he had concerns about the timescale: the seven-week window is shorter than the twelve weeks recommended by the Compact, the public and voluntary sector fair play agreement.
"The very short window for applications – over a time when a lot of people will be away – will deny many the chance to respond in detail," said Etherington.
"It is very important that lessons from a very short timescale with restrictive criteria are learned in the light of the implementation of the Transition Fund."
- The BLF has said its £20m will go into a new infrastructure programme that will be separate and distinct to the government’s fund. It has not yet decided how the money will be spent and will give details later this year. A BLF spokesman said a Cabinet Office news release about the two funds titled ‘£30m fund for charity support services opens as BIG pledges extra £20m’ was unclear.