Infrastructure bodies in greater Manchester set to merge

Community and Voluntary Action Tameside and Voluntary Action Oldham agree to form new organisation in April

Community Voluntary Action Tameside and Voluntary Action Oldham
Community Voluntary Action Tameside and Voluntary Action Oldham

Two infrastructure bodies in greater Manchester are set to merge next year.

Community and Voluntary Action Tameside and Voluntary Action Oldham are expected to form a new organisation in April following unanimous votes in favour of the move at both groups’ annual general meetings last week.

The two charities have worked in partnership for the past seven years and while both say they are in sound financial health, they believe a merger will help to protect them in from funding cuts in future years.

A name for the newly-created body has not yet been agreed.

Neither CVAT, which employs 30 people, nor VAO, which has 15 staff, could rule out any job losses or say how many roles might be at risk.

Ben Gilchrist, chief executive of CVAT, said: "Neither of us has hit crisis point - this is about sustainability now and in the future.

"All of the sector is under financial pressure and we want to take positive action while we’re not under extreme pressure.

"We don’t want to manage decline but instead to harness our strengths and take the opportunities presenting themselves to us, and we strongly believe that we can best do this together."

Liz Windsor-Welsh, chief executive of VAO, said: "As infrastructure organisations we rely on public sector funding and both of us are in a strong position, but if you look forward five or 10 years, public sector funding will become less available and we have to find some way of funding and operating efficiently without relying on our members."

The locations that the new body will operate from have not yet been decided.

Gilchrist said: "Although we may have to review our office portfolio, we have promised there will always be a front door in both of the boroughs we work in."

Both chief executives will compete to head the merged body, with the unsuccessful candidate expect to remain in the organisation.

Windsor-Welsh said VAO could well have faced more job losses without the merger.

She added: "We’re thrilled about the outcome of the AGM. It's great to have all of our members' support to move forward and strengthen our ability to deliver our charitable objectives."

According to the local infrastructure body Navca, 16 local infrastructure organisations were forced to close between 2012 and 2015, and a further 24 went through some form of merger.

CVAT had an income of £1.5m 2013/14 while VAO had an income of £1.3m over the same period.

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