Councils for voluntary service in Staffordshire have disputed a claim that they were contacted by Voluntary Action Stoke-on-Trent about a possible merger.
Staffordshire County Council appointed Vast as its third sector infrastructure and volunteering support provider in April, in a contract worth nearly £2m. After the contract was awarded, Newcastle-under-Lyme Community and Voluntary Support and Vast announced that they would merge.
Commenting on the merger, Sajid Hashmi, chief executive of Vast, told Third Sector that his organisation had contacted the remaining seven CVSs in Staffordshire about possible mergers.
But his comments sparked objections from representatives of some of the other CVSs.
Kent Parson, chief officer of Chase Council for Voluntary Service, and Diana Litchfield, the deputy chief officer of Stafford District Voluntary Services, both disputed Hashmi’s claims that they had been approached about a possible merger.
Chris Mayor, chair of East Staffordshire Community & Voluntary Services, also denied Hashmi’s claims. "We are another CVS that has not been approached about a merger," said Mayor. "Let us hope that the contract awarded by Staffordshire County Council has some real results and not just fantasy."
In a joint statement responding to Hashmi’s comments, the seven Staffordshire CVSs said that, despite failing to win the county-wide contract for "some elements of voluntary sector infrastructure support", they would continue to provide services in the county.
"CVSs in Staffordshire are determined to push ahead with plans to expand the range of services available for groups across all districts and ensure that the right support is in place now and into the future," the statement said.
David Leese, chair of South Staffordshire Community & Voluntary Action, said that although the CVSs did not agree with the council’s decision to award the contract to Vast, they would continue to support their communities.
"Our locally based CVSs know their communities inside out and are best placed to meet these needs," he said. "Some exciting ideas are under development, so watch this space for further news."
In response to the CVSs’ claims, Vast said that Hashmi had sent an email to each chief officer of the other eight CVSs in September, before the contract was awarded, proposing closer working relationships. Vast said it also contacted the chair of each CVS offering to open merger discussions, which led to the merger with NCVS.
A statement from Vast said: "In the current climate, Vast feels that – for sustainability – organisations delivering similar services need to reduce duplication through merger, collaboration and working in partnership, utilising each other’s complementary skills.
"We are keen to open discussions with the other CVSs across Staffordshire to ensure the local community receives the best possible support – they are our priority."