Editorial: A rabbit, yes - but it's cuts all round

The CSR will mean that parts of the voluntary sector are heading for the kind of contraction they have not really experienced before, believes Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

The spending review could have been a lot worse for the Office for Civil Society. It will get £470m to support the sector over the next four years, and it produced what Stephen Bubb of Acevo aptly called a rabbit out of a hat - the £100m, two-year Transition Fund.

But this compares with £500m over the previous three years, so, in crude terms, £166m a year has fallen to £118m. Whatever the adjustments will be in OCS functions, there is a big loss there.

But the OCS is only a small part of the state's financial relationship with the sector. Figures from two years ago show that £6.6bn - more than half of its grants and contracts to voluntary organisations - comes from local authorities, and their funding will fall by a quarter. The knock-on effect is bound to be very serious.

At the same time, the review's squeeze on welfare and social housing will cause yet more demand for the services of social welfare charities, which receive half their funding from the state.

In this context, Nick Hurd's rabbit begins to look more like a hamster. There is really no evading the prospect that many parts of the voluntary sector that receive state income are heading for the kind of contraction they have not really experienced before.

And then there's the 27 per cent cut to the budget of the Charity Commission. Its new chief executive, Sam Younger, was exaggerating only slightly when he speculated in his recent Third Sector interview that its funding might fall by a third. Business as usual, as commission chair Dame Suzi Leather says, is simply no longer an option.

During the past decade, the commission has increasingly become an adviser and enabler as well as a regulator. The cuts are likely to force it to retreat to its core functions of maintaining the register and investigating complaints. And the main losers from any loss of advice services are likely to be the kind of small charities the government wants to encourage.

- Read a round-up of stories analysing what the CSR means for the third sector

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