The government already has statutory powers to take action against councils that disproportionately cut funding to the voluntary sector and is prepared to use them if necessary, according to Greg Clark, the decentralisation minister.
In an interview with Third Sector, Clark said he expected local authorities to avoid cutting funding to charities and community groups before they had reduced their own administration costs, but declined to give details of the powers.
He said he had already asked councils to publish details of their funding for the voluntary sector, and he hoped this would prevent them from cutting charities’ funding more than they cut funding for services delivered by the public sector.
Councils would be given a chance to demonstrate that they had not done this, he said, but if they failed to show it the government was prepared to use statutory powers against them.
Asked whether he supported Eric Pickles’s comment that statutory force might be used against councils that imposed severe funding cuts on the voluntary sector, he said: "Absolutely. We should first give the chance to local authorities to demonstrate that they are going to do what they should be doing.
"If it proves necessary, we will use some of the existing statutory means we already have to require councils to operate reasonably."
Asked what these statutory means were, he said: "I think before we reveal what we have in mind as to the statutory requirements, we should be true to what Eric said and give councils a chance to demonstrate that they’re not necessary.
"Local government tells us it is prepared to act reasonably and doesn’t need to be forced by law into this. We’re encouraged by that, but we’re not going to drop the issue. We will act in a statutory way if it’s necessary."