The MP for Chingford and Woodford Green told delegates at umbrella group Navca’s annual conference on Tuesday that it was imperative councils were made to understand the need to maintain small grant funding.
“It’s vital to ensure that adequate grant funding is available to help charities boost their fundraising efforts,” he said. “It’s also vital that local authorities are helped to see the value in protecting and increasing grant schemes for local groups. I strongly endorse the campaign Navca is running on this.”
The Sustaining Grants campaign is backed by nine other voluntary sector agencies. Third sector minister Phil Hope also pledged his support to the campaign at its official launch (Third Sector Online, 6 September).
Duncan Smith reiterated some of the key points in Breakthrough Britain, the Centre for Social Justice report that was published in July. He called for the Government to reduce poverty by spending more money through increasing numbers of charities and voluntary organisations.
“Central and local government should direct a greater proportion of spending on tackling poverty through the voluntary sector,” he said. “However, the potential of the sector to tackle poverty will be realised only if that extra funding is more fairly spread throughout the sector.”
Duncan Smith also told conference delegates the gulf between the sector’s haves and have-nots had accelerated with the Government’s preference for consolidating contracts led by “prime contractors”.
Local people should have a greater say over how funding is allocated, he added.
“I believe we need a steady shift towards more democratic funding,” said Duncan Smith. “The growing trend towards fewer officials allocating ever larger chunks of government funding to a small number of charities is stifling dynamism and innovation in the sector and should be reversed.
“Service users and local people should be empowered with a greater say in which charities receive public money. They are often better placed to judge effectiveness than distant bureaucrats at the town hall or in Whitehall.”
A spokesman for the Office of the Third Sector said the Government recognised the important role of small community and voluntary groups.
“That is why we announced an additional £130m in the third sector review to increase the amount of small grants available to local and community organisations,” he said. “The £80m small grants fund and £50m endowment fund were developed as part
of the review of the role of the third sector, which involved the largest consultation government has ever had with the third sector.”