Government pulls the plug on £6.4m fund

Charities have criticised the Department for Communities and Local Government after its eleventh-hour decision to drop a "crucial" £6.4m partnership scheme.

Last week, the department wrote to the third sector organisations that had applied in December to become strategic partners with the department to tell them that it had pulled the plug on the scheme. The scheme was part of the department’s strategy for working with the voluntary sector, published in June.

A spokeswoman for the department said the funding would remain for use in the sector, but the department had not yet decided how it would be spent.

The Community Alliance, which consists of umbrella groups Bassac, Community Matters and the Development Trusts Association, spoke out against the decision to drop the plan, which it said was crucial.

“To pull this scheme so many months later and when we are already in the financial year in question seems bizarre,” said Bec Clarkson, director of the alliance. “It also raises questions for us about how seriously the department takes community organisations as partners if it is going to treat us in this manner.”

Ben Hughes, chief executive of Bassac, said: “This is precisely the type of action that will fundamentally erode the hard-earned trust that has been developed between the department and the community sector. We urge it to clarify its vision in relation to the community sector, which must recognise equality for any meaningful progress to be made.”

The department’s spokeswoman said it was looking to develop revised proposals for allocating the funding to make sure it fitted better with policy aims.

“We want to work with the third sector to increase empowerment and social enterprise and reduce the number of people out of work,” she said. “Funding remains in place to support this. However, we believe a revised approach to strategic partners funding is needed to better support our policy aims and provide value for money for Government.”

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