Councils 'duck full cost recovery'

Only half of the visual impairment charities that work with local government are properly reimbursed in their contracts, a survey has revealed.

A quarter claimed they were underfunded by 25 per cent, while 9 per cent said they were underfunded by 75 per cent or more.

The survey, conducted by the RNIB and the National Association of Local Societies for Visually Impaired People, identified 108 contracts that were delivered by 32 voluntary organisations.

More than 20 per cent of respondents said the income they received from local government had actually decreased over periods when they were also expected to meet the cost of inflation. Respondents also reported difficulties in covering costs such as heating and redundancy payouts.

Fazilet Hadi, director of policy and advocacy at the RNIB and one of the co-authors of the report, said: "We find that local government is not willing to pay for the indirect costs incurred by bigger organisations.

"I don't expect local authorities to pay for our chief executive, but they should be paying for the quality systems we have in place for things such as HR and training. Charities need to start negotiating better and be more honest about the real cost of running services, instead of saying whatever they think will help them win the contract."

Hadi is pessimistic about the effect of the new Compact Commissioner, who is to be appointed shortly. "He still has no real sanctions," she said. "It's implemented on a voluntary basis."

Lance Clarke, chief executive of the Surrey Association for Visual Impairment, said it was hard for smaller local organisations to walk away, even when a charity was getting a raw deal.

"We are quite lucky that we now have full cost recovery with most of our contracts, although it has taken several years to achieve that," said Clarke, whose organisation took part in the survey. "The problem for charities is that, because they are there to help, they are not likely to walk away - even when, in business terms, they probably should."


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