NCVO's business plan for leadership centre was 'simplistic'

Freedom of Information Act documents reveal more about closure of sector's centre of excellence for management training

The NCVO's business plan for the Third Sector Leadership Centre was strongly criticised in a briefing paper to the Capacitybuilders committee that decided in January not to extend its funding.

The paper, released after a request by Third Sector made under the Freedom of Information Act, says the business plan had "a strong focus on generating income, with clear targets", but was "rather simplistic and poorly drafted".

The centre, led by umbrella group the NCVO with chief executives body Acevo as a partner, closed last month when Capacitybuilders, the sector infrastructure development quango, refused to add to the £750,000 of funding it had given so far.

A dispute between the NCVO and Acevo over the level of consultation hampered the bid (17 March, page 1), but the briefing paper to Capacitybuilders' funding policy and programmes committee also reveals deeper concerns.

It says the business plan did not focus on the Capacitybuilders priority of "supporting the supporters". Its market analysis was weak, its revenue proposals "quite ambitious", its plans for sustainability were open to question and support from partners was not demonstrated, the paper says.

The briefing says the plan relied too heavily on consultant Chris Bonnard's review of the centre, which had been only partially accepted by the Capacitybuilders board.

Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the NCVO, said: "It was a high-quality plan with clear objectives and was realistic about what it was trying to do."

Peter Kyle, deputy chief executive of Acevo, which accused the NCVO of failing to engage in any detailed discussion about the business plan, said the paper vindicated his organisation's concerns about the bid.

"These documents show that the points we were trying to bring to the NCVO's attention were the right ones," he said.

The NCVO's plan had requested a further £250,000 for the centre, which opened in 2006 to improve voluntary sector leadership and employed three staff. It was based at Henley Management College in Oxfordshire.

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